Mired in their longest losing streak of the season, the Chicago Cubs still aren’t ready to panic.
The Cubs try to avoid a seventh consecutive defeat as they continue their weekend road series with the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night.
Coming off a 2-5 homestand in which it was swept in a three-game set by Houston, Chicago (85-56) opened a nine-game road trip falling 10-2 at Cincinnati - its sixth straight loss. The Cubs haven’t lost seven consecutive games since May 2-9, 2006, when they dropped eight in a row.
Chicago’s NL Central lead dwindled to four games over Milwaukee, which snapped a four-game losing streak by beating San Diego on Friday. The Cubs have lost 2 1/2 games off their lead since their skid began.
“I know at some point we’re going to break out and score runs and play like we’re capable of playing,” Friday’s losing pitcher Ted Lilly said. “I think everybody else in this clubhouse knows that, regardless what’s happened the last six games.”
Chicago has been outscored 36-14 and shut out twice during the losing streak. On Friday, the trio of Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez went a combined 1-for-9. Ramirez, who has a team-leading 100 RBIs, is 2-for-24 with six strikeouts during the skid for the Cubs.
“The truth of the matter is, you’ve got to get it done,” Chicago manager Lou Piniella said. “And it’s been a struggle over the past half-a-dozen games or so to put runs on the board. And when you’re pitching is not good, it gets ugly.”
Chicago will be up against Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto (8-12, 4.65 ERA), who pitched well against the Cubs the last time he faced them, but left his most recent start with a right elbow strain.
The rookie allowed a run without a hit in three innings before leaving injured in a 4-3, 12-inning loss at Colorado on Aug. 24 before leaving. After a bullpen session Sunday, though, he appears ready to return.
“If something was wrong with him, I would have no problem shutting him down,” manager Dusty Baker told the Reds’ official Web site. “The trainers and doctors gave him clearance. That’s what I have to go on.”
The right-hander gave up one run and four hits in seven innings of a 5-0 loss to Chicago on Aug. 19, falling to 1-2 with a 3.66 ERA in three starts against the Cubs.
Cueto wouldn’t mind receiving the same run support Bronson Arroyo did Friday. Jay Bruce hit his first career grand slam while Joey Votto added a two-run shot and three RBIs for the Reds (63-78), who have won five of seven.
Eight of Votto’s 18 home runs this season have come versus the Cubs. He’s batting .383 (18-for-47) with 16 RBIs in 13 games against Chicago in 2008.
Chicago turns to Jason Marquis (9-8, 4.46) to help turn things around. He pitched well in his last outing, allowing two runs and five hits while striking out eight in six innings, but got charged with a 3-0 loss to Houston on Monday.
The right-hander is 5-3 with a 4.59 ERA in 12 career games versus the Reds, who he has yet to face in 2008.
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