CINCINNATI — Right-hander John Lackey will face the Cincinnati Reds for the second consecutive start on Tuesday when the Chicago Cubs open a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Lackey hopes to build off the success he had against Cincinnati on Wednesday when he did not allow a home run for the first time since July 25 and for just the fifth time in his 23 starts this season. That is no simple feat against the Reds, who feature five players with 20 or more home runs, tying a single-season franchise record set in 2008 and 1956.
The Cubs (66-57) are leading the National League Central by a slim 2 1/2-game margin over the second-place Milwaukee Brewers heading into the Tuesday opener of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park.
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Manager Joe Maddon is doing everything he can to keep his players loose and help recapture some of the excitement and energy that propelled them to a World Series title last year. Last week was Maddon’s signature “American Legion Week” when he allows players to show up at the ballpark much later than usual.
“We’re going to keep it rolling, absolutely,” Maddon told MLB.com on Sunday before his team finished off a three-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays at Wrigley Field. “This time of the year, all the extra noise is not necessary. Batting practice, being on the field too early, showing up too soon — it doesn’t matter. Just be a person, show up, and then do your job, do your work, and you can work more intelligently.”
The Cubs and Reds split a four-game series at Wrigley Field last week. Chicago has won 26 of the past 35 games against the Reds (53-72), including eight of the past 11 series.
Lackey (10-9, 4.67 ERA) will need to contend with Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is been among the most consistent hitters in baseball, especially against the Cubs. Votto is batting .367 against Chicago with three homers, five doubles and 13 RBIs in 13 games.
In 16 career starts against the Reds, Lackey owns a 6-5 record and 3.75 ERA. He got a no decision vs. Cincinnati on Wednesday after a run on four hits in six innings, leaving him 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA in three starts against the Reds this year.
Cincinnati hopes to have shortstop Zack Cozart back in the lineup Tuesday after he missed games Saturday and Sunday due to a bruised left shin. He was hit by a pitch from Atlanta Braves reliever Rex Brothers on Friday.
“He didn’t respond as well as we hoped,” Reds manager Bryan Price said Saturday.
Reds right-hander Homer Bailey (4-6, 8.44 ERA) draws the start against the Cubs on Tuesday night. Bailey still is trying to find some consistency after coming back in June and missing most of the past two seasons following elbow and forearm surgeries.
Bailey allowed six runs with five walks and a home run in 5 2/3 innings against the Cubs at Wrigley last Wednesday, his lone appearance against Chicago this year. He is 8-3 with a 4.66 ERA in 17 career starts vs. Chicago.
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant should be looking forward to a return visit to Great American Ball Park, where he is hitting .293 in his career with five home runs. He hit three homers and went 5-for-5 with six RBIs there on June 27, 2016.