The Cincinnati Reds are still 4 1/2 games ahead of the last-place Chicago Cubs in the National League Central, but you wouldn't know it from the attitudes surrounding the teams. The scuffling Reds look to continue their dominance of the North Siders when the Cubs visit for a three-game series starting Tuesday. The Reds have won nine of 13 meetings this season and lead the series 35-13 over the past three campaigns.
The Reds have struggled at the plate in the second half and faded from the NL Central race, but they won the final two games this weekend versus Atlanta on the heels of a seven-game skid. Meanwhile, the Cubs' youth movement continues to pay dividends, as several rookies made key contributions to a three-game sweep of American League East-leading Baltimore over the weekend. Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto looks to outduel former teammate Travis Wood for the second time this season after earning a 4-2 victory in the previous meeting in Cincinnati on July 8.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, CSN Chicago, FSN Ohio (Cincinnati)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs LH Travis Wood (7-11, 4.91 ERA) vs. Reds RH Johnny Cueto (15-7, 2.20)
Wood is winless in his last 12 starts, going 0-6 with a 5.45 ERA since his last victory June 15 at Philadelphia. The 27-year-old took the loss last time out against San Francisco, allowing four runs and eight hits over six innings. Wood is 1-5 with a 3.68 ERA in eight starts against his former squad.
Cueto had a streak of seven consecutive victories snapped last time out at St. Louis, giving up five runs (four earned) in five innings to take his first loss since July 2. It also ended a streak of five straight outings in which the 28-year-old went at least seven innings and allowed two or fewer runs. Cueto has won his last five decisions against the Cubs dating to 2011 and is 9-6 with a 2.90 ERA in 20 career starts against them.
1. Cubs SS Starlin Castro is set to return from the bereavement list Tuesday. Castro has not played since Aug. 19.
2. Reds C Devin Mesoraco is 1-for-31 over his past 10 games.
3. Chicago's bullpen has posted a 1.69 ERA over the last 28 games after putting together 11 2/3 scoreless innings against Baltimore.
PREDICTION: Reds 5, Cubs 2