Reds-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

The scuffling Cincinnati Reds lineup may be thrilled to have Ryan Ludwick scheduled to return from injury.

The team may be even happier that it's happening at Wrigley Field.

Ludwick is expected to make his first appearance since getting hurt on opening day as the Reds try to re-establish their road success against the Chicago Cubs on Monday night.

Cincinnati (65-52) is hitting .198 over its last 14 games, going 6-8 while averaging 3.0 runs. The Reds have won four of their last five despite batting .222, including five hits in 13 innings Sunday when Joey Votto's sacrifice fly scored Jack Hannahan to clinch a 3-2 victory over San Diego.

Ludwick's return may be just what Cincinnati needs to get the offense going.

The veteran outfielder finished second on the team with 26 homers and 80 RBIs last year despite playing just 125 games. He started 2013 by tearing the labrum in his right shoulder while sliding head-first into third base in a defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on April 1.

Ludwick, who underwent surgery, hit .136 with one homer and four RBIs during a 13-game minor-league rehab stint.

"I'm a guy who notoriously has hit doubles, home runs and driven in runs," Ludwick told the team's official website. "That's what I want to do. If I can't do that, it's going to be tough. I want to help the team win, and people are expecting me to come in and be in midseason form and hit 10-15 home runs the last two months.

"Realistically, I'm not thinking about that. I'm thinking about taking productive at-bats. That's what I'm dealing with now: strike zone judgment and recognizing pitches out of the hand. Hopefully the sooner that comes, the sooner I can get back to old form."

That may happen soon since Ludwick has a .370 average with 34 RBIs over his last 32 visits to Wrigley. He has five homers in his last nine games against the Cubs overall.

The Reds took three of four at the Friendly Confines from June 10-13 but dropped the series finale 6-5 in 14 innings, ending their 12-game winning streak there.

They've won 19 of 23 overall against their NL Central rival.

Mat Latos (11-3, 3.21 ERA) has never lost at Wrigley entering his start in the opener of this three-game set, having gone 2-0 with 20 strikeouts in 18 innings. He's 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA over his last five starts against the Cubs (52-65) overall.

The right-hander has pitched well against everyone since the All-Star break, going 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA in four games. He allowed four hits in 7 1-3 scoreless innings of Tuesday's 3-1 win over Oakland.

The Cubs are opening a 10-game homestand, and they've dropped eight of nine at Wrigley with the last two coming via shutouts. They haven't been blanked in three straight home games since Aug. 20-21, 1924.

Chicago turns to Travis Wood (7-8, 3.04), who is 0-3 with a 4.65 ERA in five starts against the Reds - all losses - since they dealt him to the Cubs prior to last season. He's compiled a 1.93 ERA in two meetings at Wrigley but was backed with three total runs.

That's been a recent theme for Wood, who has received seven runs of support over his last five games. He's 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA over that stretch.

Wood didn't get a decision in Wednesday's 5-2 win at Philadelphia, having allowed two runs in 6 1-3 innings.