The Cincinnati Reds have gotten back on track in their series against the Chicago Cubs, largely due to their performance on the mound.
The Reds appear to have a good chance to continue that outstanding pitching and their lengthy winning streak at Wrigley Field with Mat Latos taking the ball in Thursday’s finale.
Mike Leake provided the latest strong outing Wednesday when he allowed one run and three hits in eight innings to lead Cincinnati to a 2-1 victory over the Cubs (25-38), who have lost eight of 10.
The Reds (40-26) are 19-3 in the last 22 meetings with Chicago, including a franchise-best 12 straight road wins – the longest streak by an opponent at Wrigley.
“We’re just having fun. That’s the only thing I can say,” said third baseman Todd Frazier, who homered for the second straight game and gave the Reds the lead in the seventh inning. “We’re relaxed when we play here. We like playing here.”
Though they had a 7.63 ERA in a stretch of four losses in five games, the Reds have bounced back with a 1.33 ERA in this series.
They should be feeling confident with Latos (6-0, 2.87 ERA) on the mound as they try for the four-game sweep. The right-hander has a chance to become the first Red to be unbeaten with an ERA below 3.00 after 14 starts.
He also hasn’t lost in a team-record 20 starts, going 10-0 with a 2.65 ERA while leading Cincinnati to a 17-3 record.
Latos has earned two of those victories against the Cubs, yielding three runs over 12-plus innings versus them this season. He’s 4-2 with a 2.91 ERA in seven career starts against Chicago, winning both outings at Wrigley.
Nate Schierholtz (4 for 24), Alfonso Soriano (3 for 14) and Darwin Barney (0 for 9 with four strikeouts) haven’t been able to figure out Latos, while David DeJesus is 4 for 10 with two doubles.
Chicago has struggled at Wrigley with a .158 batting average while losing seven of eight there. They weren’t able to get anything going again Wednesday, aside from Schierholtz’s homer in the second.
Starlin Castro (1 for 26), Barney (4 for 28), Anthony Rizzo (2 for 23) and DeJesus (2 for 18) have gotten off to slow starts this month at home.
“It’s frustrating because it’s the same game,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Starting pitchers pitching into the seventh inning, quality starts. And we’re not having quality at-bats on an everyday basis.”
Scheduled starter Jeff Samardzija (3-7, 3.18) has received three runs of support in his last two starts, though he hasn’t been sharp.
He went 0-1 with a 5.11 ERA despite 18 strikeouts in those 12 1-3 innings after going 2-1 with a 1.13 ERA over his previous three outings.
Samardzija is 1-2 with a 2.55 ERA in four career starts versus the Reds, allowing two earned runs over 12 innings while going 0-1 in two outings against them this season.
Frazier and Shin-Soo Choo have taken the right-hander deep in 2013.
Samardzija, though, has done a nice job over his career against sluggers Brandon Phillips (2 for 19), Joey Votto (3 for 17) and Jay Bruce (3 for 14).