Struggling to win away from home, the Cincinnati Reds are hoping to change their fortunes by adding to their recent dominance at Wrigley Field.
The Reds, though, will face the pitcher who started them on their current hitting slump, Carlos Villanueva, when they try to match their longest road win streak against the Chicago Cubs on Friday.
With three wins away from home, Cincinnati (15-14) is one of the worst road teams in the majors. The Reds haven't helped themselves by hitting .195 with 17 runs in the last nine games, including the first seven of a 10-game trip.
Cincinnati had six hits in a 4-2 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday, and Brandon Phillips was the only player to drive in runs with a solo homer and double.
"Hopefully, we'll regroup in Chicago and come home victorious," manager Dusty Baker told the team's official website. "I'd like a sweep before we get home."
The Reds would appear to have a good chance to salvage their trip as they've won six in a row at Wrigley Field. Cincinnati recorded its only seven-game win streak there June 25, 2002-April 14, 2003.
Cincinnati, though, will face Villanueva (1-1, 2.29 ERA) in the series opener. The right-hander yielded a solo homer, two singles and two walks to the Reds in a career high-tying 8 1-3 innings April 23, but he did not get a decision in a 4-2 road win.
Villanueva had a 1.53 ERA in his first four starts with Chicago before giving up four runs over six innings in Sunday's 6-4 loss in Miami. He's 1-2 with a 2.50 ERA in six starts against the Reds.
The Cubs (11-17) nearly headed into this game having won six of eight, but they allowed four runs in the eighth inning of a 4-2 loss to San Diego on Thursday.
Welington Castillo allowed the tying run to score when he failed to hustle after a passed ball.
"I want to apologize to my teammates for doing that. That's not going to happen anymore," Castillo said.
Chicago will seek to bounce back by recording its sixth win in 23 games against the Reds. Mike Leake will try to help Cincinnati add to that dominance while rebounding from the shortest start of his career.
Leake (1-1, 4.34) lasted three innings and gave up four runs, six hits and three walks in a 6-3 loss in Washington on Saturday.
The right-hander is 0-1 with a 5.11 ERA in his last four starts against Chicago but gave up two runs over seven innings in a 5-4 victory April 22. He's 0-2 with a 4.68 ERA in his last five outings at Wrigley.
Starlin Castro is 12 for 32 (.375) against Leake, his most hits versus any pitcher. Castro singled off him in last month's loss while David DeJesus, 5 for 12 versus Leake, and Nate Schierholtz (5 for 10) each had two hits.
Anthony Rizzo, batting .400 in his last seven games, is 4 for 8 against Leake, while Alfonso Soriano is 2 for 21. Phillips has struggled against Villanueva, going 3 for 21.
The Cubs' Carlos Marmol is seeking to surpass Lee Smith with a franchise-best 453rd career relief appearance.
The Associated Press News Service
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