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06/14/09 1:04 AM ET

Taveras in career-worst slump

Cincinnati (31-30) at Kansas City (27-34), 2:10 p.m. ET

KANSAS CITY -- It's not a coincidence that the Reds' lack of runs lately is coming at a time when the guy that's supposed to be their catalyst isn't getting on base.

That would be leadoff hitter Willy Taveras, who is in a career worst 0-for-32 skid.

It's gotten to be a pretty historic hitless slump for Taveras, who was 0-for-4 with a sacrifice bunt during Saturday's 7-4 loss to the Royals. No Reds position players have gone that long without a hit since Dennis Menke went 0-for-33 in 1973. More recently, Jason LaRue was 0-for-30 in 2006 and Alex Ochoa had a 0-for-31 streak in 2001.

As far manager Dusty Baker was concerned, the sore right hamstring that kept Taveras out for eight games recently had nothing to do with his lack of hitting.

"No, he wasn't hitting before that," Baker said. "We have to find a way to get him on base. He makes us go. Not to put it all on Willy, when our offense is clicking, Willy is getting on base a lot. He needs to get on base pretty soon or he's about to go crazy. He holds a lot inside. He wants to do so well."

Taveras' batting average is down to .229 with a .283 on-base percentage. He hasn't scored a run in the last eight games he's played since May 27.

In the first inning Saturday, Taveras hit a weak popup to third base. He lifted another popup to the shortstop in shallow left field in the fifth. In the seventh on his first pitch, he grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. In the ninth with one out, he grounded out to the shortstop and couldn't advance a runner from second base.

The Reds have another center field option in Chris Dickerson, who although batting .242 overall, is hitting .296 over his last 25 games.

As for the troublesome hamstring, it's clear Taveras isn't at full speed. On Friday after laying down a nice bunt in front of the plate, he was thrown out by a step. It was a play Taveras would normally beat out.

"Speed men if they hurt something, you will be a little apprehensive," Baker said. "He's running better. He's running smoother and getting out of the blocks a lot quicker."

Pitching matchup
CIN: RHP Johnny Cueto (6-3, 2.33 ERA)
The second time through a Major League season has been big for Cueto, who has held opposing hitters to a .210 average and 61 hits in 81 innings, contributing to a nifty 1.05 WHIP. Though he walked four, Cueto held the Nationals to four hits and one run in seven innings last time out. The win was his fifth in his past eight starts.

KC: RHP Brian Bannister (4-3, 4.69 ERA)
In his last start at Cleveland, Bannister was charged with four runs in the sixth inning but because of a defensive letdown, just one run was earned. Bannister had cruised through five shutout innings against the Indians, giving up just two hits so it really wasn't a bad outing. In his two previous starts against the White Sox and the Rays, he gave up a total of 15 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings but before that his ERA was a splendid 2.79. This is his first start against Cincinnati. Taveras is the only current Red who has faced Bannister, going 1-for-4.

The Reds will stay on rotation and not skip anyone because of Monday's off-day. ... Jay Bruce is batting .118 (6-for-51) over his last 15 games. ... With a ninth-inning home run on Saturday, Ramon Hernandez snapped an 0-for-20 skid.

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Up next
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Reds (Aaron Harang, 5-6, 3.74) vs. Braves (Jair Jurrjens, 5-4, 2.85), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Reds (Micah Owings, 3-7, 4.64) vs. Braves (Javier Vazquez, 4-5, 3.31), 7:10 p.m. ET

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.