Cubs-Reds Preview


Considering how locked in at the plate Cincinnati's Jay Bruce has been, he probably didn't want to take one day off, let alone two.

But after a scheduled off day and rainout in the series opener, Bruce looks to continue his surge and help the Reds move above .500 for the first time in more than three weeks Wednesday night against the visiting Chicago Cubs.

Cincinnati (11-11) hasn't played since Sunday's 6-5 victory over Houston. During Monday's off day, Bruce was named the NL player of the week after batting .476 with four homers, 10 RBIs and a 1.685 OPS.

Bruce's solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday broke a 5-all tie and extended his homer streak to four games, one short of matching a club record shared by Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr. and Ted Kluszewski.

"I'm not trying to think about any of that kind of stuff," said Bruce, who leads the Reds with seven homers. "It's great. I'd like to extend this week for as long as I can and be consistent, really."

This isn't the first time Bruce has enjoyed this kind of surge. Last season, he led the majors with 12 homers, 82 total bases and 33 RBIs in May.

He has also given Chicago trouble, batting .319 with a .417 on-base percentage in 20 meetings since the start of last season. He was 3 for 9 as Cincinnati took two of three at Wrigley Field from April 20-22, and is 1 for 2 with a double against probable Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija (2-1, 4.13 ERA).

Joey Votto also homered Sunday and drove in four runs for the Reds, who have won seven of 10 after opening 4-8. They're in position to move above .500 for the first time since April 8, when they were 2-1.

"The way we started was really ugly," Votto said. "It was a shock to everybody. It was humbling, but I think it was a good thing, too. I'm a firm believer in that, while you don't want to start bad, it doesn't hurt. It makes you concentrate on fundamentals."

The Cubs (8-15) started the season in worse shape, dropping 11 of their first 13. They're 5-4 since after Monday's 6-4 loss at Philadelphia.

First baseman Bryan LaHair is batting .435 with three homers, four doubles and five RBIs during a six-game hitting streak. He hit a game-tying, two-run shot Monday and has accounted for five of Chicago's major league-low nine homers.

Starlin Castro is tied with LaHair for the club lead with 14 RBIs but is 1 for 11 - his lone hit being a homer - against Cincinnati starter Bronson Arroyo (1-0, 2.70).

Arroyo gave up two runs and nine hits in five innings last Wednesday, failing to get a decision in a 4-2 victory over San Francisco. The Reds have won three of his four starts.

The right-hander was 0-1 with a 3.66 ERA in three starts against the Cubs last year after going 5-1 with a 2.18 ERA over the previous three seasons.

Samardzija takes the ball looking to put an end to his struggles away from Wrigley.

The right-hander has a 0.59 ERA and 0.65 WHIP in two home starts compared to a 10.38 ERA and 2.77 WHIP in two road outings. Pitching at home last Tuesday, Samardzija allowed four hits while striking out a career-best nine in 6 2-3 scoreless innings of a 3-2, 10-inning win over St. Louis.

Samardzija has compiled a 5.65 ERA in 14 relief appearances versus the Reds. Votto is 1 for 9 against him, while Brandon Phillips is 1 for 7.

Cincinnati went 7-2 against the Cubs at Great American Ball Park last season.