Cincinnati (36-24) has won eight straight for the first time since a 10-game run from June 21-July 1, 1999. The Reds went 96-67 that year under manager Jack McKeon and lost a one-game playoff to the New York Mets for the wild card.
During its current streak, Cincinnati has scored at least six runs in seven consecutive games and outscored opponents 59-26 overall, hitting .304 with 16 home runs.
“We’re going out there expecting to win right now,” Freel said. “That’s a good feeling. We feel like somebody’s going to do something to help us win.”
Ross is hitting .467 (14-for-30) with three homers and 12 RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak.
Thursday’s win moved the Reds a half-game ahead of idle St. Louis for first place in the NL Central, and marked the first time they have had sole possession of the top spot through 60 games since they were 35-25 in 2002. Cincinnati completed a three-game sweep of the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Wednesday.
Rookie Elizardo Ramirez (2-4, 3.95 ERA) is scheduled to start against the Cubs for the second time in three starts Friday.
Ramirez has allowed four earned runs or less in each of his seven starts, including Sunday when he gave up two runs in six innings of the Reds’ 6-4, 11-inning win at Houston.
The 23-year-old right-hander took the loss against Chicago on May 29, allowing four runs in six innings of a 7-3 defeat at Wrigley Field.
Chicago (23-36) has lost 11 of its last 16 and sends right-hander Greg Maddux (6-5, 4.77) to the mound Friday to try for his 325th win. Maddux’s next victory would move him ahead of Don Sutton and Nolan Ryan for sole possession of 13th place on the career list.
Maddux got off to a sparkling start in his 21st season, going 5-0 with a 1.35 ERA in April, but is 1-5 with a 7.75 ERA since.
His lone win during that span came against the Reds on May 30, when he gave up three runs and didn’t walk a batter in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-3 victory.
The win improved Maddux to 2-0 with a 3.09 ERA against the Reds this season.
However, he allowed six runs for the third time in four starts in a 9-6 loss at St. Louis on Sunday and didn’t register a strikeout for the first time since Sept. 21, 2003, a span of 80 starts.
“I was pitching bad,” Maddux said. “I threw bad all game. I just never got it.”
Maddux is 20-16 with a 3.61 ERA lifetime against the Reds.
Griffey is 10-for-24 (.417) with two home runs against Maddux, while backup catcher Javier Valentin is 7-for-15 (.467) with four homers against the right-hander.
The Reds have won 12 of the last 17 meetings with the Cubs, including four of five at home.