By JOE KAY
AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI — Johnny Cueto made one modest run enough to end a long losing streak.
Cueto fanned nine in seven innings on Saturday, and Brayan Pena singled through a drawn-in infield for the only run, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 1-0 victory over the Washington Nationals that ended a seven-game losing streak.
Cincinnati ended its longest losing streak in five years by getting several good defensive plays and another dominating performance by its All-Star starter. Cueto (11-6) gave up four hits and walked three.
“He always asks for one run,” Pena said. “That’s what he preaches. He has confidence in himself and believes in what he does. He always gives us a chance to be in the game.”
Left-hander Aroldis Chapman pitched out of a two-on, two-out threat in the eighth and finished for his 22nd save in 24 chances. He extended his streak of at least one strikeout in his last 43 appearances, the longest by a reliever in the majors since 1900.
The Reds’ offense has been in a deep slump, leading to Cincinnati’s worst losing streak coming out of the All-Star break since 1991. They managed only four hits during a 4-1 loss on Friday night. They got four hits again on Saturday, but this time it was enough.
“You’ve heard me talk about how teams go through stretches like this,” manager Bryan Price said. “You hope it’s not in September where it takes you out of the race. This one didn’t, but I’m sure everybody in this building is feeling a lot better.”
Pena’s single through the left side of a drawn-in infield in the fifth inning made the difference against left-hander Gio Gonzalez (6-6), who gave up four hits and fanned eight in seven innings.
He has been tough on the Reds throughout his career. He was 2-0 in his previous four starts against Cincinnati with a 1.00 ERA, allowing three earned runs and fanning 32 in 27 innings.
The Reds ended a slump that had dropped them back to .500 for the first time since June 24. Cueto had the most to do with it, holding down a team that hit him hard the last time around. He fanned the side in the third and sixth innings, leaving after throwing his 103rd pitch.
The right-hander had his roughest outing of the season on May 20 in Washington, where he gave up a season-high eight runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 9-4 loss. He didn’t feel strong at the outset on Saturday, but got better once he got the run, fanning the next four batters he faced.
“After we took the lead, it was only one run, but Johnny knew it was time to step up,” Chris Heisey said. “The next couple of innings, he was throwing 96-97 mph.”
Heisey set up Cincinnati’s run in the fifth. He led off with a double — only the Reds’ second hit off Gonzalez — and stole third base with one out. Pena singled through the hole at shortstop.
Pena also threw out Ian Desmond as he tried to steal second base after a leadoff walk in the ninth.
Two exceptional plays in the Reds’ outfield prevented early runs.
Center fielder Billy Hamilton ran down Adam LaRoche’s fly with two runners aboard in the first. Right fielder Jay Bruce got to Wilson Ramos’ fly to the warning track and doubled Bryce Harper up at first base in the second inning.
Harper got caught in a rundown between second and third base in the seventh inning after trying to take an extra base on Ramos’ infield single.
NOTES: RHP Doug Fister (9-2) starts the final game of the series against Cincinnati’s Mat Latos (2-2), who will be making his eighth start since coming off the DL. … Nationals leadoff hitter Denard Span singled off Cueto, leaving him 5 for 10 career against the right-hander. Span is 9 for 14 in his last three games overall. … Reds SS Zack Cozart was hitless, extending his slump to 0 for 20.
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