Cubs-Reds Preview

A season after their surprising NL Central title, the Cincinnati

Reds are laboring to stay near the top of the division. Judging by

their recent results in the series, a visit from the struggling

Chicago Cubs might be coming at the perfect time.

The Reds will try to add to that dominance of the Cubs, losers

of six in a row, and avoid a third straight defeat Monday

night.

Cincinnati finished 91-71 in 2010 to win its first division

title in 15 years but is 5 1/2 games back of St. Louis after

dropping 13 of 18. The Reds (30-30) seemed to get back on track by

starting 3-1 on this nine-game homestand, but were outscored 20-14

in consecutive defeats to Los Angeles this weekend.

They gave up seven runs over the first three innings Sunday en

route to a 9-6 defeat.

“That’s just baseball,” outfielder Chris Heisey said. “No matter

how good you are, you’re going to have a stretch where things don’t

go your way, like the Red Sox at the beginning of the season. We’re

.500, but I think we’re better. I know we’re better.”

Cincinnati has been the far better team in recent matchups with

Chicago (23-34), winning 14 of 17 and four of five this season. The

Reds swept a two-game set at Great American Ball Park from May

16-17 and have won six of seven meetings there.

Mike Leake (4-2, 5.03 ERA) will try to keep that run going by

with another strong outing since being recalled from the minors May

27. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his last two starts

but did not get a decision in Wednesday’s 4-3 win over

Milwaukee.

Leake allowed three runs over six innings in that game and has

been equally solid in three career starts against the Cubs, going

2-0 with a 3.20 ERA. The Reds could use another one of those

performances from the right-hander with the bullpen having worked 8

1-3 innings in the past two games.

“Hopefully, we’ll get a deep game like we have the last couple

of days (prior to Sunday),” manager Dusty Baker told the team’s

website. “That’s what helps, big time.”

Chicago, meanwhile, could use a solid outing from Matt Garza

(2-4, 3.72) in his return from a bone bruise in his right elbow.

The Cubs are trying to avoid matching last season’s longest skid –

July 27-Aug. 3 – but enter this game in a little bit of turmoil

after serving up game-ending home runs in each of their past two

defeats.

Chicago closer Carlos Marmol couldn’t hold on to a 2-1 lead in

the ninth inning Sunday in St. Louis and that led starter Carlos

Zambrano to lash out after a 3-2 defeat.

“We’re playing like a Triple-A team. This is embarrassing,” he

said. “We stink. That’s all I have to say.”

Garza was 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his two most recent starts,

allowing three unearned runs over six innings before leaving

without a decision in a 7-5 loss in Cincinnati on May 17.

In his only other matchup with the Reds on May 6, the

right-hander was reached for five runs over six innings in a 5-4

loss.