Cubs-Reds Preview

Dontrelle Willis missed an opportunity last week to beat the
team that drafted him and end his lengthy winless drought.

The Cincinnati Reds left-hander will get another chance to face
the Chicago Cubs in Monday night’s opener of a four-game series at
Great American Ball Park.

Wills (0-5, 4.21 ERA) has allowed three runs or fewer in nine of
his 11 starts since being called up from the minors in July, but
he’s still seeking his first victory since June 5, 2010. In his
200th career start last Monday in Chicago, he gave up four runs
over seven innings and struck out eight while taking the loss in a
4-3 defeat.

Willis hasn’t received more than three runs of support in any
outing this season.

“It’s frustrating because I’ve pitched worse and won,” he said.
“I’m going to continue to battle and fight and hopefully I’ll get a
win and then they’ll come in bunches.”

Willis would probably love to earn that long-awaited win against
the Cubs (64-82), who selected him in the eighth round in 2000.
Chicago traded him to Florida in 2002 for Matt Clement and Antonio
Alfonseca, who pitched for Chicago’s division-winning club the
following season.

Willis, meanwhile, was named NL Rookie of the Year in 2003,
going on to help the Marlins defeat the Cubs in the league
championship series and claim their second World Series title. Two
years later, he led the majors with 22 wins.

After being dealt to Detroit in December 2007, Willis registered
only two wins over parts of three seasons with the Tigers and
endured anxiety issues.

The Reds (71-75) are the third organization for Willis since May
2010, and they could use his help as they strive for their first
back-to-back winning seasons since 1999 and 2000.

Cincinnati appears less likely to accomplish that feat after
dropping nine of its last 13. That stretch began with a four-game
series sweep at the hands of Philadelphia from Aug. 29-Sept. 1 at
home.

The Reds went 4-5 on their subsequent road trip, including
losses in their final two games at Colorado over the weekend. Joey
Votto drove in the lone Cincinnati run of Sunday’s 4-1 defeat with
a solo homer in the ninth inning.

“They looked like they were at the end of a 10-day road trip,”
Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Baker’s former team, the Cubs, won two of three against the New
York Mets to open a seven-game trip and are 5-2 in their last seven
games overall. Chicago scored six times in the 11th inning of a
10-6 victory Sunday night.

“We don’t do things the easy way, that’s for sure,” manager Mike
Quade said. “They kept playing. They kept battling.”

The Cubs may be in for a battle if they want to help Rodrigo
Lopez (4-6, 4.82) snap a personal three-game skid. The right-hander
gave up two runs over 5 2-3 innings to Cincinnati on Tuesday during
a 4-2 loss in 13 innings.

Lopez is 2-0 with a 4.59 ERA in seven career starts against the
Reds, earning both wins in Cincinnati, while Willis is 3-2 with a
3.47 ERA in his last five starts versus the Cubs.

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, the NL leader with 187 hits, went
1 for 3 against Willis as part of his current 12-game hitting
streak. He’s batting .407 in his last six games against
Cincinnati.