After tying up this three-game set in a pitcher’s duel, the Cubs look to win consecutive games for the first time in two weeks when they face the Reds in the decisive game Wednesday.
Chicago (19-14) beat Cincinnati (13-21) 3-0 on Tuesday night, winning for only the fourth time in 12 games. The Cubs have been held to three runs or less six times during that stretch, and haven’t won consecutive games since a six-game run from April 18-23.
“Every team passes through some slumps,” Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano said. “That’s normal. We’re doing the right things, but we’ve kind of slowed down. We need to put everything together.”
Meanwhile, the Reds have now been shut out three times, half their total from last season. They’ve lost six of their last seven, scoring two runs or less five times in that span.
“This team is a lot better than the way we’ve been playing,” Reds starter Aaron Harang said.
While Cincinnati and Chicago combined for only 13 hits Tuesday, the Cubs prevailed thanks partly to a two-run single by Ronny Cedeno with two outs in the fourth inning.
Cedeno has been one of Chicago’s best clutch hitters. The utility infielder has driven in 14 of his 18 RBIs with two outs, the most on the team.
The Cubs rank near the top of the major leagues in RBIs with two outs (66 RBIs). They’re first in the majors in that category over their last 12 games, driving in 19 such runs during that stretch.
All three of Chicago’s runs Tuesday were scored with two outs. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez, back in the Cubs’ lineup after missing three games with a sore left wrist, singled in the first to drive in Ryan Theriot.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, ranks last in the league with 28 two-out RBIs. The Reds will try to get their lineup going against Jon Lieber (2-1, 1.86 ERA), who is moving into the Cubs’ rotation after Rich Hill was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Saturday.
The veteran right-hander has mainly been a starter throughout his career, but all of his nine appearances for Chicago this season have been in relief.
Lieber, the Cubs’ last 20-game winner (2002), tossed 3 2-3 scoreless innings in Chicago’s 5-3, 11-inning loss to St. Louis Friday night. He struggled in one inning against Cincinnati on April 17, allowing three runs - two earned - and three hits as Chicago lost 9-2.
Lieber is 11-8 with a 4.04 ERA in 26 starts and two relief appearances versus the Reds.
Cincinnati will counter with Edinson Volquez (4-1, 1.27 ERA) who has allowed one earned run or none in each of his six starts. He has 42 strikeouts in 35 1-3 innings.
The right-hander, though, is coming off his first loss of the season, giving up two runs - one earned - and four hits in six innings as Cincinnati lost 2-0 to Atlanta on Friday night.
Volquez earned a win against the Cubs on April 17, striking out seven while giving up four hits and walking four in five innings. It was his first career appearance against Chicago.