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CIN@PIT: Cueto exits in the fifth with lat injury

After more than a month on the disabled list, Reds ace Johnny Cueto will make his return to the mound on Monday against the Mets at Citi Field. It will be the right-hander's first Major League start since April 13, when he left the game in the fifth inning and hit the DL with a strained right lat two days later.

"I'm happy," Cueto said through translator Tomas Vera. "And thank God most of all, I'm healthy."

Cueto made two rehab starts with Class A Dayton before rejoining the Reds, and both outings went smoothly. The 27-year-old threw a total of eight innings, allowing one run on seven hits.

Monday will mark Cueto's fourth start of the season. He enters the series opener with a 1-0 record and a 2.60 ERA, and he hopes to pick up right where he left off.

"I will continue to work hard and see what happens," Cueto said. "You never know what's going to happen. God willing, I will continue to do well."

Shaun Marcum will take the mound for the Mets, but manager Terry Collins is most concerned about getting first baseman Ike Davis on track at the plate. Davis had the day off Sunday with the Cubs sending out a left-handed starter, but the slugger is expected to return to the lineup against Cueto.

Davis enters Monday with two hits in his last 33 at-bats. He has just one extra-base hit and one RBI in May. During his struggles, Davis -- usually the Mets' cleanup hitter -- has hit as low as seventh in the lineup, but Collins said on Sunday he hadn't decided where he will bat the former first-round pick.

Collins was sure that an improved Davis would do wonders to help a sometimes anemic Mets offense, which has scored three runs or fewer in 10 of its last 13 games.

"We're not playing all that good, so we've got to get him going," Collins said. "I don't want to heap a whole bunch of pressure on him, but that's why it's important that he start swinging the bat, because we're not playing good right now. We need his bat and we need him to get going."

Reds: Middle of the order mashing
Despite losing two of three to the Phillies over the weekend, the Reds head into this three-game series with the Mets having won seven of their last nine.

Much of the recent success has been the result of a pitching staff that's had opposing hitters on the ropes. The offense, however, and particularly the heart of the order, has played a major role in Cincinnati's hot play of late.

In Sunday's effort, No. 3 hitter Joey Votto, No. 4 hitter Brandon Phillips and No. 5 hitter Jay Bruce all extended their hit streaks. Bruce's streak is the longest entering Monday, as his fourth home run of the month pushed his run to 10 straight games with a hit. Votto extended his streak to eight games on Sunday, while Phillips made it seven in a row with a single in the eighth.

Mets: Marcum seeks first victory
In his debut season with the Mets, Marcum will take the hill on Monday looking for his first win with the team. The 31-year-old veteran didn't make his first appearance until April 27 because of neck and shoulder issues.

In his first three starts, Marcum didn't go more than 4 2/3 innings while giving up at least three earned runs each time out. His fourth and most recent outing was his best, as he allowed two earned runs and five hits across 6 2/3 innings vs. the Cardinals. That was little consolation for Marcum, who took his fourth loss, one of which came in relief during a 15-inning game against the Marlins.

"It stinks to lose" Marcum said. "As far as throwing the ball for me, it's better. It's still not where I want to be."

Worth noting
• Monday's game kicks off the final leg of a nine-game National League East road trip for the Reds, who went 4-2 in the first six games.

• The Reds enter Monday's game having won nine of their last 13 on the road since going on an eight-game road losing skid in April.

• Cincinnati starting pitchers own a 1.44 ERA on the current road trip heading into the series vs. the Mets.

• Monday marks the beginning of an eight-game homestand for the Mets, who will take on the Reds, Braves and Yankees.

• Marcum is the only pitcher Phillips has at least 10 plate appearances against without recording a hit. Phillips is 0-for-12 with three strikeouts in his career vs. Marcum.

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