Strasburg, Cueto square off in Cincinnati

8:22 AM, Apr 7, 2013   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - Two of the top young pitchers in baseball square off on Sunday when the Cincinnati Reds host the Washington Nationals in the finale of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park.

Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos each homered in the top of the 11th inning, and the Nationals held on to beat the Reds, 7-6, in Saturday's second game.

These teams have combined to score 28 runs in the first two games, but, with Washington going with Stephen Strasburg for the rubber game and the Reds countering with Johnny Cueto, such continued fireworks are unlikely.

Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, was masterful in his initial start of 2013, pitching seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball with three strikeouts and no walks in a 2-0 defeat of the Miami Marlins on April 1.

It followed up nicely on his bounce-back season of 2012, when, after making just five starts in a 2011 lost to injury, he won 15 of 21 decisions for the National League East Division champions and posted a 3.16 earned run average with 197 strikeouts in 159 1/3 innings.

Strasburg made a big splash upon reaching the majors as a rookie in 2010, winning five of eight decisions and posting a 2.91 ERA across 12 starts. He underwent ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow in 2011, however, and made news last year when the Nationals announced he'd be on an innings limit.

He won his lone career start against the Reds after allowing three runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings on July 21, 2011, in Cincinnati.

The Reds counter with Dominican-born righty Johnny Cueto, who was fourth in the NL's Cy Young Award voting last season after winning a career-high 19 games in 28 decisions for the Central Division champions.

He posted a 2.78 ERA and allowed 205 hits with 170 strikeouts in 217 innings, finishing behind winner R.A. Dickey, Clayton Kershaw and Washington's Gio Gonzalez.

Cueto debuted this season with a seven-inning stint against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on April 1 and emerged with a no-decision after allowing a single run on three hits in seven innings.

He's 4-2 in seven career starts against Washington.

On Saturday, Desmond took Cincinnati reliever J.J. Hoover (0-2) deep to left field to begin the 11th. One out later, Ramos crushed his second home run of the game, a drive over the center-field wall to put the Nationals up 7-5. The Washington catcher also belted a two-run blast off Reds starter Mike Leake in the sixth.

Craig Stammen (1-0) struck out the first two Cincinnati batters in the bottom of the 11th before Joey Votto walked and scored on a double by Brandon Phillips. Stammen, however, fanned Jay Bruce on three pitches to end the contest.

The Nationals overcame blowing a 5-1 lead they carried into the eighth. Cincinnati pushed two runs across in the inning, then pulled even in the ninth against new Washington closer Rafael Soriano.

"Good job battling back by our guys," Leake said.

Washington won five of seven games against the Reds in 2012, including two of three in Cincinnati.

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