The Chicago Cubs won’t be mistaken for an offensive juggernaut, but their recent trouble scoring runs at home is something the long-suffering franchise hasn’t experienced in nearly 89 years.
Homer Bailey has been extremely stingy at Wrigley Field over the last two years, and he’ll be on the hill for the Cincinnati Reds as the Cubs look to avoid a fourth straight home shutout for the first time in club history.
Chicago (52-66) ranks in the bottom third of the majors in runs and has scored two or fewer 37 times after Monday’s 2-0 loss in the series opener. The defeat marked the first time the Cubs have been blanked in three straight home games since Aug. 20-21, 1924.
Of the 11 Cubs who came to the plate Monday, only Darwin Barney did not strike out. Donnie Murphy recorded their first hit in the fifth inning and had two of Chicago’s six for the game.
“It’s funny. We’re scoring in bigger parks and stuff on the road and we can’t seem to muster up anything at home,” manager Dale Sveum said.
Facing Bailey (7-10, 3.73 ERA) may not make it any easier on the Cubs. He has won his last four overall starts versus Chicago and has posted a 1.93 ERA during a four-start winning streak at Wrigley Field.
The right-hander was reached for five runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings Wednesday, but the offense provided enough support in a 6-5 win over Oakland. He has not won three consecutive starts since reeling off four straight from July 2-20, 2012.
Bailey gave up two runs in six innings of a 5-2 win over the Cubs May 25 at home before allowing one unearned run and four hits in eight innings of a 6-2 victory June 10 at Wrigley. He struck out eight in both outings.
The Reds (66-52) have won five of six after Brandon Phillips hit a two-run homer in the seventh Monday to give them their 13th win in 14 games at Wrigley and 20th in 24 overall versus the Cubs.
Ryan Ludwick played Monday for the first time since tearing cartilage in his right shoulder opening day and went 0 for 3, but he’s still a .324 career hitter in 41 games at the Friendly Confines.
He’ll look improve on that average against Jeff Samardzija, who is coming off arguably his worst major league start.
Samardzija (6-11, 4.23) gave up a career worst-tying nine runs in 3 1-3 innings – equaling the shortest start of his career set four years ago – in Thursday’s 12-1 loss to Philadelphia.
He went 1-1 with a 2.42 ERA in his previous four outings, though, and neither Sveum nor general manager Jed Hoyer are concerned about the right-hander.
“I’m hopeful he can get through this down stretch and get going,” Hoyer told the team’s official website. “I don’t think he’s getting tired; he might be pressing. He’s gotten through this kind of stretch before and we’re hopeful he can get through it again.”
Samardzija is 0-1 with a 3.50 ERA in three starts versus the Reds this season and allowed five runs and 10 hits while walking four in six innings of Chicago’s 6-5, 14-inning victory the last time he faced them June 13 .
Phillips, though, is just 3 for 23 lifetime against Samardzija.
Starlin Castro, who had a six-game hitting streak snapped Monday, is 0 for 6 this season and 5 for 24 (.208) in his career off Bailey.