Reds-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

Travis Wood has recorded a quality start in all but one of his 12 outings, with his only forgettable performance coming against the Cincinnati Reds last month.

He's never gotten the best of his former team.

Wood aims for his first win in five starts versus Cincinnati, which tries for a 12th consecutive road win over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.

Acquired from the Reds (39-26) in a four-player deal in December 2011, Wood (5-4, 2.65 ERA) has given the Cubs a big lift this year. Besides posting an NL-leading .193 opponents' batting average, he has gone at least six innings while allowing three runs or fewer in 11 of 12 starts.

"He's pitched like an All-Star. They are not just quality starts, (he's giving up) one or two runs, not three," manager Dale Sveum told MLB's official website. "The biggest thing is he's able to execute his pitches. He's able to throw to his arm side and stick to a game plan."

The left-hander opened the year with nine consecutive quality starts - the best such stretch by a Cubs pitcher since Mordecai Brown's 11 in 1908 - before getting hit hard in a 5-2 loss at Cincinnati on May 25. Wood surrendered five runs, seven hits and three walks over 5 2-3 innings, dropping to 0-2 with a 5.25 ERA against the Reds.

"It's not tougher to pitch against them - it's tougher to take when they beat you like that," he said. "It's not tough to go out there and pitch, because it's just another game. You have to attack each hitter the same way. It's frustrating when it doesn't work out."

Wood gave up one run and four hits over six innings but took another hard-luck loss in Friday's 2-0 defeat to Pittsburgh. He's received a combined four runs of support in his four losses.

"Travis has been the same all year," second baseman Darwin Barney said. "He's been consistent, pounding the zone. When he's pitching, it's fun to play behind him, because you know he's throwing strikes."

Wood now turns his attention back to the Reds, who have outscored the Cubs 68-36 during an 11-game winning streak at Wrigley Field - the most consecutive wins by an opponent there. Zack Cozart, Xavier Paul, Joey Votto and Todd Frazier all homered and drove in a combined 10 runs during Tuesday's 12-2 rout.

"It's pretty cool. We're comfortable here," said Frazier, who's team has taken 18 of 21 from Chicago overall. "For some reason, we do like playing here in Chicago, but we're happy go lucky. It's pretty fun, it gets us back on the winning track. We got two more to go, we're trying to get that sweep."

The Cubs (25-37) have hit .200 while losing seven of nine this month. They failed to get much going Tuesday aside from Cody Ransom's fourth homer in six games.

All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro has had an especially rough time at the plate of late, going 3 for his last 44. Castro, though, is 12 for 35 with three doubles and a triple against Reds scheduled starter Mike Leake (5-3, 2.93).

The right-hander had gone 3-0 with a 0.33 ERA over his previous four outings before allowing three runs in five innings during Friday's 9-2 loss to St. Louis.

Leake could be feeling good about his chances of bouncing back on the road, where he's strung together 19 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings. He's won a career-best four consecutive starts away from home while compiling a 0.71 ERA, a stretch that began at Wrigley on May 3.

Leake is 5-2 with a 3.44 ERA in 12 career starts versus Chicago.

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