CHICAGO -- The Cincinnati Reds have given the Chicago Cubs fits all season. But just when Reds appeared on the verge of winning their sixth straight game against the reigning National League Central champions, the Cubs turned to a familiar ally.
The Cubs twice rallied from five runs down on Saturday to pull out an 8-7 victory. They will head into Sunday's matinee at Wrigley Field with a chance to capture the series. Having staff ace Jon Lester on the mound certainly won't hurt.
Lester will take his 11-2 record and 2.25 ERA into the start a day after the Cubs produced four eighth-inning runs for their dramatic win.The Cubs' last eight wins all have come after they fell behind early.
"I love the fight," Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters after the team's 50th win of the season. "Both sides wanted to win (and) we got it in the end.
"We've been in this situation all week."
Added Cubs second baseman Javier Baez, who homered in the seventh inning before the Cubs mounted their latest comeback: "We never quit."
The rally stunned the Reds, who appeared in line for their sixth win in their last seven games and their 15th in the past 19. Instead, Lester will take the mound in search of his eighth straight victory.
Lester was named NL Pitcher of the Month in June and is tied for the league lead in victories. Lester, who has won seven straight starts dating to May 23, will look to keep rolling against the Reds, against whom he is 6-1 in 14 starts.
In Lester's last start -- an 11-10 victory over the Minnesota Twins -- he added an extra bonus -- a solo home run. But Lester, who has struggled traditionally from the plate, won't get too wrapped up in the excitement.
"If I get hits, I get hits," Lester told reporters after his last outing on July 1. "The home run is awesome, it's cool, especially at home. But at the end of the day, I know I'm a pitcher and I'm not a hitter."
The Cubs, who are playing without third baseman Kris Bryant -- whom Maddon said will begin a minor league assignment soon -- may be without right fielder Jason Heyward. He left Saturday's loss in the third inning after fouling a ball off his groin.
The Reds enter Sunday's series finale looking for their sixth straight series. But after Cincinnati touched up Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood for seven runs only to see Jared Hughes surrender a three-run lead, the Reds will attempt to regain their winning ways after Saturday's shocker.
Cincinnati's bullpen had, until Saturday, been able to protect late leads, which made Saturday's loss so unfathomable. It marked only the third time this season the Reds lost after leading heading into the eighth inning.
"We've come back on a few clubs like that," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman told reporters, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Today, (the Cubs) did it to us."
Luis Castillo (5-8, 5.53) will start Sunday for the Reds and will attempt to bounce back from a disappointing June. He finished the month 1-3 and allowed at least three earned runs in each of his five outings. Castillo is 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in three career starts against the Cubs.