As the weather warms, the Chicago Cubs are slowly starting to hit for more power primarily because of Bryan LaHair.
LaHair and the Cubs look to sweep their rain-shortened two-game series from the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
After Tuesday's opener was postponed by rain, Chicago (9-15) defeated the Reds 3-1 on Wednesday in a game that was 87 degrees at first pitch. LaHair and Ian Stewart hit solo homers for the Cubs, who had their first multihomer game since April 13.
"It feels nice to have warm weather,' said Jeff Samardzija, who allowed three hits in 7 2-3 innings. "Late in the game, it keeps your arm going. It's amazing what a difference it makes.'
It also seems to be helping the offense.
Chicago, last in the majors with 11 home runs, has gone deep in three consecutive games and has hit six in the last seven contests after going nine straight without one.
LaHair has been most responsible for that surge. He's batting .407 with four homers, four doubles and six RBIs in his last seven games, and has six home runs so far - the only Cub with more than two.
Reds scheduled starter Homer Bailey (1-2, 3.60 ERA) hasn't surrendered a homer in his last three starts, but LaHair has had some success against him, going 3 for 5 with a double.
Bailey, who turns 26 on Thursday, received two total runs of support in losing his first two starts and his bullpen coughed up the lead his last time out. Against San Francisco last Thursday, Bailey gave up three runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings but the bullpen surrendered three in the top of the ninth in a 6-5 loss.
Bailey's only start in which the Reds (11-12) won came at Wrigley Field on April 20. He allowed four runs - one earned - and five hits without a walk in seven innings of a 9-4 victory. He's 2-0 with a 3.79 ERA in his three starts against the Cubs since the start of last season.
Chicago counters with Ryan Dempster (0-1, 1.33), who is slated to come off the disabled list from a right quad strain.
Dempster, who turns 35 on Thursday, has recorded a 0.93 WHIP and 23 strikeouts in 20 1-3 innings, but has been backed by four total runs of support.
In his last outing at Miami on April 17, the right-hander allowed two unearned runs and four hits while striking out eight in six innings of a 5-2 loss, but didn't receive a decision.
Dempster was solid last season in five outings against the team he made 35 starts for in 2002-03, going 2-2 with a 2.81 ERA. He's also done a good job limiting some of Cincinnati's best hitters.
Joey Votto is batting .222 with two homers, seven strikeouts and six walks in 27 at_bats against Dempster, while Jay Bruce is hitting .238 with one double and eight strikeouts in 21 at_bats.
Bruce, the NL player of the week, went 1 for 3 with a double Wednesday to end his streak of four straight games with a homer.
The Reds lost for the third time in five games and have a concern with the health of Bronson Arroyo, who acknowledged after pitching six innings that his back is once again giving him problems.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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