While it’s too late for any realistic playoff hopes, the Chicago
Cubs’ longest win streak in nearly three years has brought a small
measure of affirmation.
The Cubs will try to add to their seven-game run Sunday by
completing a three-game sweep of the slumping Cincinnati Reds.
Chicago (49-65) hadn’t won more than three consecutive games
this season before its current streak, which matches a seven-game
run from August 2008. The Cubs also claimed a season-high nine
straight victories from May 26-June 3 during that 97-win
Potent hitting and improved fielding have led the way during
this streak. Chicago is batting .296 – 34 points above its season
average – while outscoring opponents 45-25, and the Cubs have just
one error over their last seven games after committing a major
league-worst 93 in their first 107.
“We’ve been playing outstanding the last (seven) games,” pitcher
Carlos Zambrano said. “We’ve been doing the right things, playing
good defense. We’ve been doing the things everybody was expecting
from us. That’s what this team is capable of. We have a good
They went error-free for the fourth consecutive game Saturday
and plated 11 runs for the second time in five contests.
Starlin Castro had a season-high four RBIs during that 11-4
victory and Carlos Pena drove in three runs.
Castro also scored at least one run in his eighth straight game
and extended his hit streak to seven with a 2-for-5 performance.
The shortstop is 16 for 32 with seven RBIs and five multi-hit games
during his streak, which he’ll try to extend against the struggling
Bronson Arroyo (7-9, 5.45 ERA).
The Reds right-hander is 0-3 with a 6.57 ERA over his last six
starts, but he tied a season high by going eight innings Monday in
Houston. He retired 18 of 19 batters during one stretch, including
12 in a row, but also gave up three early runs during Cincinnati’s
4-3, 10-inning defeat.
Arroyo is 0-2 in his last three starts against the Cubs,
including a 4-1 defeat June 8, but he’s 4-0 with a 1.95 ERA in his
last five outings at Wrigley Field. He yielded one run over 7 1-3
innings there May 7 but Francisco Cordero gave up two runs in the
ninth to send the Reds to a 3-2 defeat.
Cincinnati (54-59) enters this game having lost 11 of 15 on the
road and eight of 12 overall, including three in a row.
Randy Wells (3-4, 5.89) will try to extend those woes and record
his third win in four starts. The right-hander matched a season
high with seven strikeouts and gave up two runs over six innings
during his last outing in an 11-6 win in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Wells is 4-1 with a 2.64 ERA in seven career starts against the
Reds but hasn’t faced them this season.
There’s a possibility Brandon Phillips could return to bat
against Wells despite a scary collision with a sliding Drew Stubbs
in the fourth inning Saturday. Phillips was diagnosed with a
sprained right ankle and is day-to-day.
“That was a blessing that my foot was in the air a little bit
and I had on the rubber cleats today. If I had on my metal cleats
today, I probably would have been done,” said Phillips, who is
batting .351 with 11 RBIs over his last 14 games.
The Cubs are going for their first three-game sweep of the Reds
since July 24-26, 2009, also at Wrigley.