Depleted Reds take on the Cubs
Although losing shortstop Zack Cozart was a huge blow to the Cincinnati Reds, his recently called up replacement wasted little time in helping to win a game.
With a few other pieces returning to full strength, the Reds seek their sixth win in seven contests as they continue a four-game road series against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night.
Cozart was lost for the season Wednesday to a right knee injury, further depleting a roster that's also missing outfielder Marlon Byrd (broken wrist) and catcher Devin Mesoraco, who has discontinued a minor-league rehab assignment in which he was playing left field to try putting less stress on his ailing left hip.
"We've had some tough, tough injuries," manager Bryan Price said. "We're just kind of putting our heads down and rolling."
The good news for the Reds (28-32) is that center fielder Billy Hamilton returned from a three-game absence due to a sore left hand, though he was 0 for 5 in Friday's 5-4 win in 10 innings, while second baseman and three-time All-Star Brandon Phillips came on as a pinch hitter after being day to day with a strained groin.
Hamilton leads the majors with 25 stolen bases in 29 attempts and Phillips is batting .306 with three homers and 25 RBIs.
Cincinnati got its biggest boost Friday from Eugenio Suarez, who drove in Todd Frazier with an unearned run in the 10th in his second game in place of Cozart.
"I tried to put the ball in play," Suarez said. "I hit a good slider he threw me and I hit it real good. I felt very, very excited because we won a really good game."
Frazier, who reached in the 10th on third baseman Kris Bryant's throwing error, hit his team-leading 18th homer and also drove in a run with a double.
"We made a couple of mistakes, but we kind of fought through them," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "If we play that (type of) game often enough this year, we're definitely going to get ourselves into the playoffs."
Looking to help the Reds to their third victory in the last nine at Wrigley Field will be Mike Leake (3-4, 4.29 ERA), who is trying to win back-to-back starts for just the third time since a three-start win streak June 15-26.
The right-hander ended a five-start win drought by battling through six innings of a 6-4 home victory over Philadelphia on Monday. Leake allowed 10 hits but gave up just two earned runs and kept the ball in the yard for the second straight outing.
Leake has had success against the Cubs (32-27) with an 8-2 record and 3.19 ERA, but hasn't figured out Chris Coghlan and Anthony Rizzo. Coghlan is 9 for 11 against him with three doubles and two homers, while Rizzo has batted .400 (10 for 25) in the matchup.
Taking the hill for Chicago will be Kyle Hendricks (2-2, 3.96), whose last five starts have resulted in four Cubs victories. In his most recent outing Sunday, Hendricks allowed two earned runs in five innings of a 6-3 win at Washington.
Although Hendricks has been giving the Cubs enough to win, they'd like to see him go deeper into games. The right-hander hasn't made it out of the sixth in seven of 11 starts.
In his two career outings against the Reds, Hendricks has gone 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA and 11 strikeouts over 13 innings.