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CIN@MIL: Cueto fans nine over seven solid innings

Cy Young Award candidate Johnny Cueto can pull into a tie for the National League lead in wins Sunday.

The Reds' right-hander comes into Sunday's start against the Cubs at Wrigley Field with 14 victories, one shy of NL leader R.A. Dickey.

At 26, Cueto's emerging as an ace in a Reds rotation that's been fantastic this season. Cueto won five straight starts until a 3-1 loss to the Brewers on Tuesday, and in 11 of his 23 starts, he's allowed one run or none. He also has a team-high 17 quality starts.

"When he goes out there, everybody knows you've got a great chance to win," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He goes deep into ballgames. He's stopped a number of bad streaks. He's very good after losses, and he's also created some winning streaks for us, too."

For the Cubs, who have rookie Brooks Raley on the mound for his second career start, their only win in their last 11 games came in this four-game series on Friday. Raley, a 24-year-old lefty, gave up seven seven runs on eight hits and three walks in four innings of a 7-4 loss to San Diego on Tuesday -- poor numbers, but debuts often deserve mulligans.

"Any guy, for the first time, I don't care what you say, the first inning, the first batter -- hopefully it's the last time your legs ever feel like that, but that's what happens," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said after Raley's first outing. "He's a pretty poised kid who can make things happen. You hope he keeps the ball down. We've all been impressed with him. That's why he's here."

On a whole, this is a Cubs team that could use some mulligans. They've scored a first-inning run in seven of their last nine home games, but mental mistakes are causing a lot of hurt. Sveum talked at length with Starlin Castro on Saturday about keeping focused.

"I don't see any of those consistent, consistent mental lapses anymore. That just goes to show you he's in the right place, position wise," Sveum said. "So he's come a long way, that way."

Reds: Votto's return delayed at least a week
The first-place Reds will have to wait a little longer for one of their best bats. Joey Votto, out since July 15, had cartilage that was floating in his left knee removed by Reds medical director Dr. Timothy Kremchek on Friday.

"He was having some pain and we sent him back to get a new MRI and get re-examined," Reds head athletic trainer Paul Lessard said. "They found basically a little chunk of cartilage floating in his knee, so [Dr. Kremchek] went in and removed it. The whole procedure only took about six minutes, so he's going to stay back in Cincinnati with the physical therapists until we get back home."

The knee was first operated on July 16.

Cubs: Jackson sits with whiplash
Center fielder Brett Jackson did not play in Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Reds after he collided with Alfonso Soriano in the ninth inning Friday.

"It's kind of basically like he got hit by a truck or something, more than anything," Sveum said. "Kind of a whiplash-type effect."

Worth noting
• Despite their current rough patch, the Cubs are 20-20 in their last 40 games.

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