Carlos Beltran has returned in strong fashion since the All-Star break. He may be facing the right pitcher to continue that success.
The New York Yankees slugger has fared well against Cincinnati Reds All-Star Johnny Cueto heading into Sunday's matchup in the Bronx.
New York (49-47) looks to hand Cincinnati (51-46) a season-high sixth straight road defeat after Beltran has gone 4 for 8 with a homer and two RBIs in the first two games of this three-game set.
Beltran missed the final seven games before the break, the last five due to a broken nose that happened after he was hit in the face with a ball he hit in batting practice July 9. He has been limited to designated hitter duties in this series.
"I said before when he started to swing the bat pretty well before he decided to hit the ball off his nose and I thought he was getting going, and I was hoping the week off wouldn't hurt him but he seems to be feeling pretty good up there," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's extremely important to us."
The veteran has more experience than any of the Yankees against Cueto (10-6, 2.13 ERA), going 6 for 14 with a pair of homers.
This will be the first time Beltran will face the Cincinnati starter in a New York uniform. Cueto has held Yankees legend Derek Jeter hitless in six at-bats, going 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA in three career starts against New York with 18 strikeouts in 19 innings.
The right-hander is 5-2 with a 1.60 ERA while limiting opponents to a .176 average in nine day starts. The Reds have captured six of his last seven outings, with Cueto going 5-1 with a 2.45 ERA.
Cueto leads the majors in opponent batting average at .181.
He'll likely need more support than what Reds hitters have provided so far this weekend. Cincinnati, playing without injured sluggers Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, has scored four runs while going 0 for 14 with runners in scoring position and striking out 23 times with one walk.
''I think this is kind of a blip in the radar, but we certainly need to turn things around if we want to get that game tomorrow,'' manager Bryan Price said.
Chris Heisey's homer was all the Reds mustered in Saturday's 7-1 defeat.
Cincinnati will try to get untracked Sunday against right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (6-6, 4.10), who is 3-2 with a 2.61 ERA in five career starts against the Reds.
Kuroda has pitched well in his last three home starts, registering a 2.18 ERA despite a 0-1 record.
Ryan Ludwick was not in Saturday's lineup. He has faced Kuroda more than any other available Reds hitter with two hits in 13 at-bats.
The Yankees have been more opportunistic in this series, going 6 for 16 with runners in scoring position. They went 5 for 37 during a five-game home slide that preceded the break.
"I think an offense can get on a roll as a group and I think it's important we do that as a group," Girardi said.
Mark Teixeira is hitless in seven at-bats in this series and has a homer in six at-bats versus Cueto.