The Chicago Cubs will carry a six-game winning streak into Monday’s series opener against the visiting Cincinnati Reds.
Chicago is coming off a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates, including a wild 11-8 victory on Sunday. Matt Duffy joined Frank Schwindel in belting a grand slam and joined Jason Heyward by launching a solo shot.
It has been a long season for the Cubs (63-75), but the team’s recent success has provided a jolt of excitement in the clubhouse.
“Deep down, we want to compete, we want to be good,” said Schwindel, who has homered in each of his past three games. “We’re not just going to coast the rest of the year. It’s a lot of fun when everybody’s on the same page and putting the work in and seeing some results.”
The Cubs will put their streak on the line against Cincinnati (73-65), which is coming off a 4-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. The Reds failed to record an extra-base hit as they dropped the rubber match of the series on their home field.
Now comes the start of a nine-game road trip for the Reds, who will play three games apiece in Chicago, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Cincinnati has played nearly as well on the road (35-32) as it has at home (38-33) this season.
Reds manager David Bell expressed confidence in his club as it strives for a wild-card spot in the National League playoffs. The Reds reside a half-game behind the San Diego Padres for the second wild card entering play Monday.
“I think the motivation is there just because of the position we’re in,” Bell said Sunday. “I think that’s all the motivation you need. We go out to win every single game. We are where we are today after this game, and we have a lot left to look forward to and important games to play in, and we’re excited. We’re going to enjoy it, and we’re looking forward to (Monday) already and we can’t wait.”
The Cubs will send left-hander Justin Steele (3-2, 3.48 ERA) to the mound for the fifth start of his rookie season. The 26-year-old from Mississippi is coming off his best start of the season Wednesday, when he limited the Minnesota Twins to one hit in five scoreless innings. He walked three and struck out three.
Steele is 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in three career appearances (one start) against Cincinnati. His first start against the Reds came on Aug. 16, and he gave up two runs on five hits in four innings.
The Reds will counter with right-hander Sonny Gray (7-6, 3.89), who is set to make his 22nd start of the season.
Gray is looking to win his fourth outing in a row after posting victories against the Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals.
Gray has started against the Cubs nine times in his career. He is 4-3 with a 3.06 ERA in those matchups.
Cincinnati is 10-6 against the Cubs this season.
–Field Level Media