The Cubs look to avoid dropping three straight games for the first time in eight weeks when they continue their three-game set with the Reds on Saturday.
Cincinnati (45-59) won 5-4 on Friday when Edwin Encarnacion singled in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. The Reds improved to 4-1 on their homestand, including winning three of four over NL Central-leading Milwaukee.
Chicago (53-48), which trails the Brewers by three games, has lost two straight and four of its last six, but is still a major league-best 31-17 since June 3. It has not lost three consecutive games since a season-high six-game slide May 27-June 2.
The Cubs have scored just seven runs in their last four losses.
Left fielder Alfonso Soriano was hitless in five at-bats Friday, and is batting only .138 (4-for-29) with seven strikeouts in his last seven games. Soriano is 2-for-10 lifetime against Cincinnati starter Aaron Harang (10-2, 3.45 ERA), who is coming off one of the most impressive outings of his career.
Harang gave up one run, seven hits and struck out 10 in a career-high 10 innings of a 2-1, 12-inning victory over the Brewers on Monday. He joined Toronto’s Roy Halladay as the only pitchers in the majors to go 10 innings this season.
Cincinnati has won the last nine times Harang has pitched, as the right-hander has gone 4-0 with a 2.38 ERA. He hasn’t lost since May 20, and could have more than his 10 wins if he wasn’t followed by one of the majors’ worst bullpens.
“I think he has not gotten the credit he deserves,” interim manager Pete Mackanin told the Reds’ official Web site. “I think his name should be at the top whenever they mention the best pitchers in the league, because he’s certainly shown me that, and his numbers prove it.”
Harang, who hasn’t lost at Great American Ball Park since May 5, is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his last seven home starts.
He beat the Cubs on opening day at home, allowing one run and six hits in seven innings of a 5-1 victory on April 2. He struggled at Wrigley Field on April 13, though, lasting just four innings and giving up five runs and nine hits in a 6-5 win. Harang is 6-1 with 4.23 ERA in 11 career starts against Chicago.
The Cubs counter with Sean Marshall (4-4, 3.25), who is seeking his first win in more than a month.
Marshall has pitched well enough to win his last three outings, but has been hurt by a lack of run support. The left-hander allowed five runs in 17 1-3 innings, but was backed by only four runs.
On Sunday, Marshall gave up one run and five hits in six innings of a 3-0 defeat to Arizona.
“It’s not a big deal to me,” Marshall told the Cubs’ official Web site. “I just want to pitch well, and keep the team in every game, and hopefully get good results out of it.”
This is Marshall’s first career start against the Reds.