(AP) — The struggling Chicago Cubs might be exactly who the Cincinnati Reds want to see right now, and Cubs’ current losing streak might be in danger of growing.
The Reds will try to add to that dominance of the Cubs, losers of six in a row, and avoid a third straight defeat Monday night.
Cincinnati finished 91-71 in 2010 to win its first division title in 15 years but is 5 1/2 games back of St. Louis after dropping 13 of 18. The Reds (30-30) seemed to get back on track by starting 3-1 on this nine-game homestand, but were outscored 20-14 in consecutive defeats to Los Angeles this weekend.
They gave up seven runs over the first three innings Sunday en route to a 9-6 defeat.
“That’s just baseball,” outfielder Chris Heisey said. “No matter how good you are, you’re going to have a stretch where things don’t go your way, like the Red Sox at the beginning of the season. We’re .500, but I think we’re better. I know we’re better.”
Cincinnati has been the far better team in recent matchups with Chicago (23-34), winning 14 of 17 and four of five this season. The Reds swept a two-game set at Great American Ball Park from May 16-17 and have won six of seven meetings there.
Mike Leake (4-2, 5.03 ERA) will try to keep that run going by with another strong outing since being recalled from the minors May 27. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his last two starts but did not get a decision in Wednesday’s 4-3 win over Milwaukee.
Leake allowed three runs over six innings in that game and has been equally solid in three career starts against the Cubs, going 2-0 with a 3.20 ERA. The Reds could use another one of those performances from the right-hander with the bullpen having worked 8 1-3 innings in the past two games.
“Hopefully, we’ll get a deep game like we have the last couple of days (prior to Sunday),” manager Dusty Baker told the team’s website. “That’s what helps, big time.”
Chicago, meanwhile, could use a solid outing from Matt Garza (2-4, 3.72) in his return from a bone bruise in his right elbow. The Cubs are trying to avoid matching last season’s longest skid – July 27-Aug. 3 – but enter this game in a little bit of turmoil after serving up game-ending home runs in each of their past two defeats.
Chicago closer Carlos Marmol couldn’t hold on to a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning Sunday in St. Louis and that led starter Carlos Zambrano to lash out after a 3-2 defeat.
“We’re playing like a Triple-A team. This is embarrassing,” he said. “We stink. That’s all I have to say.”
Garza was 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his two most recent starts, allowing three unearned runs over six innings before leaving without a decision in a 7-5 loss in Cincinnati on May 17.
In his only other matchup with the Reds on May 6, the right-hander was reached for five runs over six innings in a 5-4 loss.
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