Cubs-Reds Preview

The Associated Press

Jay Bruce finally delivered for the Cincinnati Reds after a rough few days at the plate.

They may need him all the more with Joey Votto sidelined again.

After hitting his first home run in two weeks, Bruce will make his first career appearance at first base as the Reds open a five-game series against the visiting Chicago Cubs on Monday night.

Bruce had gone a career-worst 0 for 26 before hitting a tiebreaking two-run homer in the eighth inning of Sunday's 4-2 win over Milwaukee, his first since June 21. His .400 slugging percentage is 76 points lower than his career mark.

"There's nobody here that doubts our club in the clubhouse, and we've been playing a lot better lately," manager Bryan Price told MLB's official website. "And if it continues, obviously we can put some pressure on the clubs that are ahead of us."

After taking two of three from the NL Central leaders, the Reds (45-42) look to further their momentum against the last-place Cubs (38-48). They'll have to get by without Votto, who may be headed back to the disabled list due to a nagging strained left quad.

Votto missed over three weeks with the injury earlier this year and hadn't homered since returning June 10. He was struggling through a 6-for-37 funk before sitting out Sunday.

"He's got some challenges, physically," Price said. "We knew the process when we initially put Joey on the disabled list that when we got him back, we weren't going to be able to get him to 100 percent over the course of the regular season."

Bruce has played all three outfield positions in his career, but he hasn't played first base since high school.

Mike Leake (6-7, 3.47 ERA) takes the mound for Cincinnati looking to get back on track after his three-start winning streak was snapped in Tuesday's 8-2 loss at San Diego. The right-hander, who had thrown eight innings of one-run ball in each of his previous two outings, gave up three runs and a season-high 11 hits over 5 2-3 innings.

Leake is 7-2 versus the Cubs, winning his last three starts against them while posting a 1.40 ERA. Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro went a combined 4 for 23 against him last season, and Welington Castillo and Darwin Barney were both 2 for 10.

Chicago counters with Edwin Jackson (5-8, 4.99), who recorded his first quality start in eight appearances at Boston on Tuesday. The right-hander allowed one run and six hits over six innings but didn't receive a decision in the 2-1 victory.

Jackson had posted a 3.44 ERA in winning three consecutive outings against the Reds - including his first two this season - before yielding all four runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 4-1 defeat June 25.

The Cubs are 4-2 on their 11-game road trip after scoring a combined one run in back-to-back losses at Washington. Chicago outhit the Nationals 10-7 but went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position in Sunday's 2-1 defeat.

The Cubs have dropped five of eight to Cincinnati this season. Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco has given them fits, going 13 for 24 with three homers and nine RBIs during a seven-game stretch dating to September.

Rizzo is 6 for 13 with three homers in the last four games against Cincinnati, but he's batting .156 with no extra-base hits and one RBI in his last eight overall.

What to Read Next