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CIN@WSH: Cueto earns win with eight impressive frames

The Reds have finally accomplished what manager Dusty Baker had been looking for.

They got back to .500.

Thanks to their 6-3 win over the Nationals Saturday at the Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati improved its record to 66-66. It's the first time the club has been at the .500 mark since July 6.

"It's a big goal when you have some losing seasons," Baker said. "I don't like that. This has been a tough year, trying to stay at that mark or above. We've been treading water, but you'd rather swim."

Now the question is whether the Reds can earn a winning record for the first time since they were 43-42 on July 3.

That task falls to right-hander Johnny Cueto, who is 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in his last five starts. He proved erratic in his last start against the Marlins on Tuesday, allowing three runs on four hits, but walking a season-high six batters in five innings of work.

However, he said his foot was landing on the edge of a hole on the mound created by Florida starter Ricky Nolasco.

"I was trying to get the right spot to land," he said. "It was tough the whole game to get adjusted ... It was flat and had a big hole. It was tough to win, especially when I had six walks."

Cueto is 4-2 with a 4.17 ERA in six career starts against the Nationals. He won his only other start against the Nats this season, allowing just one run in eight strong innings in a 2-1 win on Aug. 17.

However, Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann has seen his fair share of success against the Reds, too. The righty held Cincinnati scoreless over 5 2/3 innings on Aug. 18 to earn his eighth win of the season.

Nats: Marrero makes debut
Nationals first baseman Chris Marrero made his Major League debut on Saturday against the Reds, going 1-for-4 while recording two errors in a 6-3 loss. The 2006 first-round pick was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Friday.

"I want to play," Marrero said before the game. "I've been in the Minor Leagues for five years. I'm finally getting my shot, so I want to go out there and have fun."

Reds: Rolen hits off tee
Reds third baseman Scott Rolen, who has been on the disabled list since July 22 with a left shoulder injury, has begun hitting off a tee.

"He's progressing," manager Dusty Baker said. "He just now started hitting off the tee. We'll progress him to soft toss and some live [batting practice]."

Rolen, who is batting .242 with five homers and 36 RBIs this season, will likely not get a rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville, whose season ends on Sept. 5. It's still unclear whether he'll return this year.

Worth noting
• Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg made his fifth rehab start Saturday night, allowing one run on two hits in five innings, while recording seven strikeouts for Triple-A Syracuse. The former first overall pick, who has been recovering from Tommy John surgery, is expected to make his season debut in the Majors in September.

• Reds outfielder Chris Heisey, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 7 with a left oblique strain, is heading to Triple-A Louisville for a rehab assignment. He's expected to rejoin the club on Sept. 1.

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