Cincinnati (28-22) at Chicago (18-31)

Rain Currently: Chicago, IL, US
Temp: 39° F
  • Game info: 2:20 pm EDT Mon May 29, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

A win over a Cincinnati Reds team that he has dominated throughout his career could be a huge boost for Kerry Wood and the struggling Chicago Cubs.

Wood will try to maintain his mastery over Cincinnati when the teams begin a three-game series at Wrigley Field on Monday.

Since losing 2005 NL batting champion Derrek Lee to a broken wrist on April 20, Chicago (18-31) has dropped 26 of 35 to fall into fifth place in the NL Central and is just 2 1/2 games ahead of last-place Pittsburgh.

On Sunday, the Cubs rallied with four runs in bottom of the ninth before losing 13-12 in 11 innings to Atlanta. Chicago allowed a club-record eight homers in losing its sixth straight game.

“I’m proud of my team and how they battled back,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We were one hit away from winning that game. You hate to lose the game, but that shows what you can do. We don’t quit.”

Wood (0-1, 6.30 ERA) will be trying to help end the Cubs’ slide when he takes his 12-4 career mark against Cincinnati to the mound. The Reds are the only team against which he has posted double-digits in wins, and he has 168 strikeouts while limiting Cincinnati to a .195 average in 22 appearances.

But the injury-prone Wood, who missed all of 1999 after elbow surgery, is again trying to come back after having shoulder surgery in August. The right-hander struggled with control in his second start of the season and left with a 4-3 lead after five innings on Tuesday against Florida, but did not get a decision.

Wood allowed two hits, walked five, struck out three and had an RBI single, but the Cubs fell 5-4 when closer Ryan Dempster allowed a two-run single with two outs in the ninth.

“I didn’t have my best stuff but I made my pitches when I needed to,” Wood said. “I made a couple of mistakes. All in all, I kept us in the game.”

Wood was given an extra day of rest to prepare for this start, and Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild was impressed by what he saw after Wood threw Thursday and again in a side session on Friday.

“The recovery this time in between (starts) was much quicker than last time,” Rothschild said.

Wood also will be trying to bounce back from a rough season debut at home. Against Washington on May 18, he gave up three homers in five innings of a 5-3 defeat.

Cincinnati (28-22) will counter with Elizardo Ramirez (2-3, 3.72), making his first career start against the Cubs. The right-hander held Milwaukee to three runs and five hits with three walks and three strikeouts on Tuesday in a 7-3 victory.

The Reds barely avoided being swept at home by Arizona on Sunday as Javier Valentin’s two-run pinch-hit homer in the ninth inning gave Cincinnati a 5-4 win.

“In a situation like that, you look for their best pitch,” said Valentin, whose pinch-hit single gave Cincinnati a 3-2 victory over St. Louis on May 2. “I was just looking for something hard and middle in that I could get a good swing on.”

Cincinnati is 3-2 against Chicago this season, including two wins at Wrigley Field.

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Starting Pitchers

E. Ramirez TEX vs. K. Wood CHC
4-9 Record 1-2
5.37 ERA 4.12
69 K 13
29 BB 8
1.46 WHIP 1.37