Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds
- The Cubs have won back-to-back games just once against the Reds since September 13, 2011. That was a modest two-game streak from Sept. 9-10, 2013. Cincinnati holds a 34-12 record against Chicago during this stretch.
- Mike Leake is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his last four starts against the Cubs, all in 2013. Chicago sluggers Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro went a combined 4-for-23 against Leake last season
- Jay Bruce is batting .206 with two homers and 11 RBI in 18 games this season when Joey Votto is out of the starting lineup. Votto's status for this series is up in the air due to a strained left quad.
- Since 1914, this week marks the 25th series of five games or more between the two teams and the first since 1999 (four series of six games were played). During this stretch, the only sweep in a series of five games or more was the by the Reds in 1931.
- After their 4-2 win over the Brewers yesterday, the Reds went to 7-3 against the Brewers to go with a 19-9 combined record against the Brew Crew, Pirates and Cubs on the season.
- Edwin Jackson has 252 career starts, fifth most by active pitchers 30 years old or younger. Felix Hernandez of the Mariners leads with 288 career starts at just 28 years and 90 days old.
- Kershaw first in majors to 16 victories
- Price allows 9 straight hits, Yanks win
- Royals extend Central lead to 2 1-2
- Trout hits 30th HR, Angels stay in 1st
- Fuld's HR in 9th rallies A's by Astros
By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- 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.
Updated July 7, 2014