Cubs seeking consistency as they continue series vs. Reds (Jul 01, 2017)

BY AP • July 1, 2017

CINCINNATI -- Chicago's longest winning streak this season is four. On the current road trip, the Cubs are 4-5.

Last season, they had winning streaks of eight and 11 games. Injuries have made it difficult for the defending World Series champions to put together an extended run, but manager Joe Maddon remains encouraged.

"I give our guys a lot of credit, actually," Maddon said. "Of course, we haven't won several games in a row. But this whole road trip to me has been outstanding. That has been overlooked a little bit, based on breaking in a lot of new guys and how well they've handled the situation."

Chicago (40-40) is looking to gain some momentum as it continues a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.

Cincinnati won 5-0 in Friday's series opener, but the Cubs have won 23 of the past 29 meetings.

Rookie right-hander Jackson Stephens will make his major-league debut for the Reds on Saturday. He was on the roster for five days earlier this year but did not pitch. Stephens will be the seventh rookie to start a game for the Reds.

"He got off to a very slow start in Triple-A and he's pitched much better of late," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I think it's a good message for all of our guys in our system, that we don't pick up a stat sheet and say this is who you are. We look at certain sections at the season. He's been competing a lot better in the zone with his stuff, and we like his mix of pitches."

Stephens has four pitches he can command in the zone.

In 14 starts at Triple-A Louisville, he went 4-4 with a 4.97 ERA. In his past five appearances, including four starts, Stephens went 1-1 with a 3.28 ERA.

It's uncertain at this point if Stephens' outing will be a one-shot deal

"I'm looking right now for a start, and then define if we're better off having a reliever and then another spot starter before the All-Star break," Price said. "So we're going to look at the roster and see how we can keep ourselves as healthy as possible with our bullpen."

By getting shortstop Zack Cozart back from the disabled list on Friday, the Reds (34-45) have a five-man bench, which will limit their bullpen.

The Cubs are getting healthy, too.

Kris Bryant tested his right ankle before the series opener in Cincinnati with positive reports. He suffered a mild to moderate sprain after stepping awkwardly on the third-base bag after catching a popup Wednesday at Washington. Infielder Jeimer Candelario was improving after being hit by a pitch on Thursday.

Right-hander Eddie Butler (4-2, 3.71 ERA) will start for the Chicago on Saturday. He tossed five scoreless innings in his last start at Washington and owns a 1.00 ERA in his past two starts.

Saturday will be Butler's fourth career start against Cincinnati, first with the Cubs. He's 0-1 against the Reds with an 8.44 ERA in three starts while a member of the Colorado Rockies.

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