Last week against the Chicago Cubs, the Cincinnati Reds couldn't get much going against former teammate Travis Wood, who admitted having some extra motivation in facing his old club for the first time.
Cincinnati could be in for more of the same when Wood returns to Great American Ball Park in the opener of a four-game series Friday night.
The NL Central-leading Reds (71-47) took three of four in Chicago last week, with Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier leading the way. Ludwick finished 6 for 16 with two homers, two doubles, six RBIs and five runs, while Frazier hit .600 with a homer, two doubles and six RBIs.
Both came up big in Saturday's 4-2 win, a game featuring the same pitching matchup as Friday - Wood (4-8, 4.52 ERA) against Bronson Arroyo (8-7, 3.95).
Wood, who spent his first two seasons with the Reds before being traded in December, held Cincinnati to five hits and matched a career high with eight strikeouts over seven innings. The only run he allowed came on Frazier's RBI single in the fourth.
"That was as impressive an outing as he's had all year," manager Dale Sveum told the Cubs' official website.
Wood departed with a 2-1 lead, but the Reds scored three times in the eighth as Ludwick delivered the go-ahead two-run double. Cincinnati's rally made a winner out of Arroyo, who allowed two runs and five hits in eight innings.
Arroyo improved to 5-3 with a 2.31 ERA in his last 11 starts against the Cubs (46-70), but all of those defeats came in his last three matchups in Cincinnati. The right-hander has a 4.19 ERA in those games, surrendering two homers each time, and he has a 6.60 ERA in three home starts since the All-Star break.
Despite Arroyo's home struggles, the rest of the team is excelling there. The Reds are a major league-best 38-21 at home and have won 12 of the last 16 meetings with the Cubs in Cincinnati.
Ludwick, who has a season-high eight-game hitting streak, is batting .357 with four homers, three doubles and 15 RBIs in his last 11 home games. He hit his 23rd homer Thursday against New York as the Reds lost 8-4 to snap a five-game winning streak.
Cincinnati, which had its lead over Pittsburgh cut to six games, committed three errors leading to three unearned runs.
"Over a 162-game season, you're going to have games like this, but the way we'd been playing lately, it's odd," shortstop Zack Cozart said.
The Cubs arrive in Cincinnati after beating Houston 7-2 on Wednesday to take two of three from the majors' worst team. David DeJesus had a pair of homers and finished with four hits, while Starlin Castro had three hits - including his 12th homer - for the Cubs, who had lost 11 of 12 prior to facing the Astros.
Castro is 3 for 17 against Arroyo, while DeJesus is 3 for 15.
Although Wood is 0-5 since the All-Star break, he is showing improvement. The left-hander has a 2.50 ERA with one homer allowed in three starts this month after posting a 12.64 ERA with nine home runs served up in his previous three.
"As a whole, I've progressed," Wood said. "I've had some good games and some bad games. That's baseball."