Reds-Cubs Preview

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

campaign.

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

team.”

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.