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Leake hopes for some run support in opener with Nats

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Cincinnati Reds have managed to score more than four runs just once over their last 11 games, a trend that starter Mike Leake is very aware of.

Leake will try to win for the first time in six starts on Monday night as he gets the call in the opener of a three-game series with the Washington Nationals.

The Reds have lost each of Leake's last five trips to the mound, with the right-hander going 0-2 in that span despite logging at least seven innings in each contest.

Furthermore, Leake has pitched to a 1.96 earned run average over his last three starts, but Cincinnati has plated just four runs in that span.

That left Leake with a second straight no-decision on Tuesday versus San Diego even though the 26-year-old gave up just one run on two hits and a walk over eight innings.

"Leake couldn't have been any better," said Reds manager Bryan Price. "He had that really nice mix of sinker/cutter going, he was able to drop the breaking ball in there and change when he needed it. Just made pitch after pitch."

Leake, the eighth overall pick of the 2009 draft, is 2-3 on the year with a 3.09 ERA and 3-3 lifetime against the Nationals with a 5.53 ERA in eight starts.

He'll square off against the top pick of the '09 draft in Stephen Strasburg, who comes in 3-3 on the year with a 3.48 ERA.

The right-hander was denied a third straight winning decision on Tuesday thanks to a 3-1 loss to Arizona. Strasburg allowed all three runs on eight hits over seven innings, striking out six without issuing a walk.

Strasburg, 25, will make the third start of his career versus the Reds, splitting the first two while pitching to a 7.36 ERA.

The former All-Star will attempt to keep the Reds' offense struggling. Cincinnati is coming off a series loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, getting outscored 20-4 over the set's final two games after winning Friday's opener 3-0.

Cincinnati was defeated 8-3 on Sunday as Philadelphia hit four home runs, three off of Reds starter Tony Cingrani.

Devin Mesoraco went 4-for-4 with two doubles and drove in one of the Reds' two first-inning runs.

"We got some things started and weren't able to finish," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. "We have to find a way to be able to grind out more than a couple of runs a game."

Not helping Price's club is the fact that star first baseman Joey Votto is day-to-day with a strained left quadriceps.

Washington has won three of its past four games and secured a series victory on Sunday with a 6-3 win over the New York Mets to wrap a three-game set. Wilson Ramos drove in four runs as he tries to shake off a slow start.

The catcher came into the game hitting just .154 with two RBI in eight contests, missing time due to injury.

"(Ramos) has been huge," said starter Jordan Zimmermann. "He is the guy that can hit a home run anytime he steps up there and as we saw today, big clutch hit and drove in some runs so it's definitely good to have him back."

Zimmermann pitched six innings and surrendered three runs on eight hits. Rafael Soriano came on to pitch the ninth and nailed down his 10th save of the season.

The Nationals have won six of their last eight at home versus the Reds.

05/19 10:04:59 ET