Mat Latos hasn't been the same since he lost to the Pirates on June 18. Maybe it will take another start against Pittsburgh to break out of his slide.
Latos started the season 6-0 and hadn't lost since last August until the Pirates beat him a month ago. Since then, Latos is 2-3 with a 4.91 ERA and a .267 batting average against over five starts.
In his last start, the 6-foot-6 righty allowed six runs and nine hits over four innings. He threw almost two-thirds of his pitches for strikes, but it was the quality of some of them that strapped him with his third loss of the season.
"I made a couple of good pitches when I needed to, but all in all, the ball was right down the middle of the plate," Latos said after the loss to Atlanta. "It was just a matter of making an adjustment that I couldn't make today."
Latos will face Pirates righty A.J. Burnett, who hasn't lasted six innings in two starts since missing a month with a torn right calf. He didn't go six in just four of his 14 starts.
Burnett has allowed three earned runs, 10 hits and six walks over 10 2/3 innings in two starts since being activated from the disabled list.
"You want to go deeper than that," Burnett said after his last start. "But with that bullpen coming in to do what they do, the way they are attacking ... you feel pretty good with those three guys coming in behind you."
The Pirates' bullpen has been one of baseball's best, ranking in the top three in ERA (2.78), batting average against (.213), saves (34) and WHIP (1.10) before Friday.
Reds: Choo stays in leadoff spot against lefty
Manager Dusty Baker originally had Chris Heisey leading off against Pirates lefty Francisco Liriano on Friday. A few hours before the game, he put Choo, the normal leadoff man, back at the top of the order.
Earlier this season, Baker had usually dropped Choo to the two-spot against lefties. That's going to be less likely going forward, especially with Choo's recent success. He's on a 13-game hitting streak. Entering Friday, he had a .287/.425/.468 slash line, but a .175/.312/.202 line against lefties.
"I'm going to try and leave Choo there for a while. It seems like he's figuring it out," Baker said. "We've talked quite a few times. This guy tonight is tough. He is still my leadoff man. I might do it sometimes, but he is my leadoff man."
Choo went 1-for-4 Friday, while Heisey, batting second, went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, including a solo homer in the first. The Reds will face another lefty, Jeff Locke, on Sunday.
Pirates: Jones stays hot against Cincy
First baseman Garrett Jones went 2-for-3 Friday against the Reds, which came as no surprise considering how well he's fared against Cincinnati in 2013.
Entering Friday, Jones was batting 11-for-36 (.306) with two doubles, a homer and three RBIs in 10 games against the Reds this season.
However, he is just 1-for-7 with a walk and two strikeouts against Latos.
• The Pirates will play 35 of their remaining 68 games against National League Central opponents.
• Latos is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA in nine career starts against the Pirates. Burnett is 5-5 with a 4.09 ERA in 13 career starts against the Reds.
• Following this series against Pittsburgh, the Reds will head west for an 11-game road trip against the Giants, Dodgers and Padres.
• Current Pirates are hitting .189 against Latos. He has 43 strikeouts in 127 at-bats against them, as well.
Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.