Aces will duel in final game of series

Reds fans will get their money’s worth at 1:10 p.m. today at Great American Ball Park — unless they’re paying $2 for a single banana or $10.50 for a Slushie. Those are actual prices at the concession stand.

On the field, on the mound especially, there’s a far better deal. It doesn’t get much better, in fact, than two aces going at it, and the aces don’t get much better than the Reds’ Johnny Cueto and the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg. They combined to win 34 games last season.

Cueto gave up one run in seven innings on Opening Day against the Angels on Monday.

Strasburg threw seven scoreless innings against the Marlins in the Nationals’ opener on Monday. Strasburg didn’t pitch against the Reds last season, and the Reds haven’t seen him since he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010.

“He’s a good one,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “You’ve got to rise to the occassion. Somebody has to. There’s other guys you’d pick to face before him, but you can’t duck anybody.”

“Your guy’s not too shabby either,” a writer told Baker.

“I know, and our guy’s been in it longer,” Baker said.

Mesoraco starts: Backup catcher Devin Mesoraco drew his first start of the season Saturday, replacing Ryan Hanigan.

Baker said Hanigan started the first three games because he throws out 40 percent of the baserunners who try to steal, and the Angels have a lot of speed. Hanigan also started Friday because he catches Bronson Arroyo, and Mesoraco got the start Saturday because he catches Mike Leake.

“As we get deeper along, I explained to both of them, I might feel the need to mix and match,” Baker said. “You shouldn’t be tired because it’s early. As the weather gets hot, I’ll mix and match.”

Big-league debut: The newest Red, Derrick Robinson, reached on an error by Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond in the sixth inning Friday. It was his first big league at-bat, and Robinson wished Desmond had fielded it cleanly because he thought he could beat it out for a hit.

“I was running as fast as ever,” the speedy outfielder said.

Robinson was called up from Triple-A Louisville on Wednesday to take the roster spot of Ryan Ludwick. He didn’t play Wednesday and Thursday and had waited anxiously for his first chance, which finally came in the Reds’ 15-0 victory.

“It was good to get it out of the way,” he said Saturday. “Surprisingly, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. After that first pitch, I was thinking, ‘Game on.’ I might have been a little too anxious to put that 2-0 pitch in play, instead of just playing my game.”

Robinson’s parents got to see his debut in person. His mom has been filming his games since he was a star defensive back at P.K. Yonge High School in Gainesville, Fla. Robinson signed with the University of Florida in 2006 but was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the fourth round and signed for $850,000.

Robinson said his mom got his first at-bat on camera.

“It’s one to hold on to, maybe for the kids to watch,” he said.

Attendance: A crowd of 34,762 on Saturday brought the total attendance for the first homestand of the season to 165,084 with one game remaining.

The Reds begin a three-game series in St. Louis on Monday and then visit Pittsburgh for three games beginning Friday.

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