The Cincinnati Reds continue to win close games while the Chicago Cubs can’t seem to find a break when it matters most.
The two teams meet Saturday in the second of three holiday weekend games in Cincinnati after the Reds squeaked out a 2-1 win on Friday night, giving them a 13-9 record in one-run games this season.
The road-weary Cubs, meanwhile, lost their seventh straight on a 10-game trip through Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Cincinnati, with two remaining this weekend against the Reds.
Kris Bryant, coming off a strain of his right side, returned with a pair of hard-hit singles and scored Chicago’s lone run Friday.
Anthony Rizzo also came back Friday from injury after missing the entire three-game series in Milwaukee with a stiff back. He struck out in all three plate appearances Friday as his average dropped to .245 on the season.
“We are on a skid, and it’s not fun,” Rizzo said. “Losing sucks. From now on, trade rumors are going to be flying. (The media) will be asking us, as they should. We just have to concentrate on each day. We have a long way to go. It’s a marathon. There’s a long way to go in the season.”
Cincinnati drew to within 1/2 game of second-place Chicago in the NL Central and moved back over .500 with its fifth win in nine games on a season-long 11-game homestand.
“We knew it was going to be a close game and come down to a big hit,” Reds manager David Bell said. “(Jonathan India) again leading off, walk. (Nick Castellanos) with a base hit and then Joey (Votto) just coming through.”
In addition to the Votto two-run double in the sixth, the Reds received a diving catch on a sinking Ian Happ liner to left by Jesse Winker to end the fourth, a diving stop by Kyle Farmer and a clutch throw by Eugenio Suarez to thwart the Cubs offense. Five Reds relievers held the Cubs scoreless over the final four innings to seal their second straight one-run win.
The Cubs will turn to right-hander Adbert Alzolay (4-7, 4.55) to end the seven-game skid. Alzolay will make his 14th start of the season and his second this season against Cincinnati.
Alzolay allowed a season-high six runs (four earned) in three innings in his last start on Sunday vs. the Dodgers. He is 0-2 with an 8.22 ERA in two starts since returning from the IL on June 21 and 0-3 with a 9.28 ERA in his last three starts dating to June 7.
Alzolay will make his fourth career appearance (third start) vs. the Reds. He is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA lifetime against Cincinnati. In his two starts against the Reds, he is 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA, including 5 2/3 scoreless innings in the win on May 28.
Cincinnati will counter with right-hander Tyler Mahle (7-3, 3.74). Mahle will try to turn around a strange pattern of struggling in his home park as he is 2-2 with a 6.75 ERA in six starts at Great American Ball Park this season. His numbers are much better on the road, posting a 5-1 record with a 2.01 ERA in 10 starts, holding opponents to a .188 batting average.
Mahle is 1-0 in two previous starts against the Cubs this season. He started on May 2 at Great American Ball Park, giving up six runs on nine hits in only five innings as the Reds won a slugfest, 13-12 in 10 innings. Lifetime against the Cubs, he is 4-2 with a 3.61 ERA in 10 career starts.
–Field Level Media