"It's been a tough stretch these last five days, especially when you're losing them late," manager Dusty Baker said after his team blew a 3-1 sixth-inning lead to the Cubs on Thursday.
The Reds finally stopped the bleeding on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, holding off the Cubs in a 10-8 victory. That increased the club's National League Central lead over the Pirates to three games heading into Pittsburgh's contest against San Diego on Friday night.
The Reds will send Bronson Arroyo to the mound on Saturday afternoon against Cubs starter and former teammate Travis Wood, who will be making his first appearance against his old club.
The Reds selected Wood in the second round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, and he spent parts of two seasons with Cincinnati before heading to Chicago this past December as part of a deal for reliever Sean Marshall. Wood is 4-8 with a 4.77 ERA this season, including 0-5 with an 8.78 mark and 10 home runs allowed over his past five starts.
On Monday in San Diego, the lefty posted his first quality start since July 6, giving up two runs in six innings of a 2-0 loss.
"He's going to have some hiccups in the road, as he's still developing other stuff," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said "He did a nice job. We had a hard time manufacturing any runs."
Arroyo (7-7, 4.05 ERA) also has been plagued by the long ball. The veteran righty surrendered a Major League-high 46 last season, plus 20 more in 22 starts this season. Three of those came in the sixth inning on Monday at Milwaukee.
"Keeping the ball down was going to be at a premium today," Arroyo said. "You could just tell, the ball, especially going to right-center, was just flying out. Some balls that even we hit looked like they were going to be lazy fly balls ended up being to the wall."
Arroyo has allowed nine earned runs in 11 1/3 innings over two August starts. He gave up three runs over six innings in a home loss to the Cubs on May 2, but he owns a 3.14 ERA in 13 career games at Wrigley Field.
Reds: Bruce likely to get second day off
Right fielder Jay Bruce wasn't in Friday's lineup, the result of his latest slump at the plate. He probably won't return until Sunday's finale.
"He's struggling," Baker said before Friday's game. "I haven't talked to him yet, but I mean, he hasn't looked much like Bruce the last week. I'll probably give him today and [Saturday] off, and hopefully [he'll be able to get his] head together."
Bruce went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Thursday, extending his hitless streak to 12 at-bats and making him 7-for-33 (.212) with no home runs and 13 strikeouts over his previous 10 games.
"If you've been watching [our games], you've seen it, too," Baker said. "He's just not swinging well. He's feeling for the ball. He's not attacking. It looks like he's messed up right now."
Third baseman Scott Rolen missed a third straight game due to back soreness on Friday, and he continues to be listed as day to day.
Cubs: Post-Deadline struggles continue
From June 25-July 30, the Cubs went 19-10. Since July 31, the day of the non-waiver Trade Deadline, they have lost nine of 10.
Chicago dealt away catcher Geovany Soto, infielder Jeff Baker, outfielder Reed Johnson, and pitchers Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm during that span, while injecting more youth into the roster with Minor League callups.
"We got to the point in the season where, obviously, we were playing as good of baseball as most good teams and, obviously, we fell off the last eight days, nine days a little bit," Sveum said before Friday's loss, which included five Cubs errors. "Baseball is what it is, and when you've got young guys on the team, you're going to go through tough times, but they have to play. It's just a matter of those guys relaxing."
Sveum wants to develop those young players, but that doesn't mean other goals get pushed aside.
"I think we've all been in situations where you're in a pennant race," he said. "And especially when you get in September and you're playing the teams that are vying for playoff spots, you're going to do whatever you can do to field the best team out there, to beat those teams."
Wood's ERA this season is 5.74 at home and 5.40 in day games.
Current Cubs are hitting .186 in 86 at-bats against Arroyo.