The Chicago Cubs are in the NL Central basement and scuffling at the plate during their latest slide.
They may not need to produce much with Jake Arrieta taking the mound.Arrieta looks to continue his outstanding stretch and end the Cubs' dismal one in his first career meeting with hot-hitting Devin Mesoraco and the visiting Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.Chicago (31-43) is batting .168 while going 0 for 16 with runners in scoring position during a three-game losing streak. The Cubs went 0 for 6 in such situations Monday, totaling five hits in a 6-1 defeat to Cincinnati.Chicago has lost 18 of the past 20 home meetings with the Reds (38-37), batting .217 while averaging 3.0 runs.Pushing three runs across could be enough with Arrieta (3-1, 1.98 ERA) getting the ball.The right-hander is 2-0 with a 0.45 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 20 innings over his last three starts. He fanned a career-high 11 and allowed a run over seven innings in Wednesday's 6-1 win at Miami."I'm not doing anything different," said Arrieta, who has a 5.02 ERA in four-plus seasons with Baltimore and Chicago. "I'm just commanding everything down in the strike zone and trying to force early contact. Strikeouts are just a byproduct of throwing several plus pitches for strikes."That approach especially seems to be working at home, where Arrieta has allowed one run in 16 innings in three starts."I think he is commanding his fastball better, and his breaking ball is starting to get some bite and location," manager Rick Renteria said. "He's got great stuff, and he's very composed."Arrieta, though, will have to contend with Mesoraco, who has homered in four straight games and is 9 for 20 with 11 RBIs in the past six. The catcher hit a grand slam in the ninth after walking twice and being hit by pitches on two other occasions Monday.Mesoraco owns a .413 average over his last 15 games against the Cubs. If he goes deep again Tuesday, he'll tie the franchise record for consecutive games with a homer at five, reached four times -- most recently by Adam Dunn in 2008.The Reds are hoping Homer Bailey (7-3, 4.68) can continue his success against Chicago. The right-hander is 7-0 with a 3.08 ERA over his last 10 starts in the series, and that includes a 2.23 ERA and 5-0 record in six games at Wrigley Field since losing his first visit on Sept. 13, 2009.Bailey hasn't been nearly that sharp lately, compiling a 5.25 ERA while not getting a decision over his last two starts after winning four in a row behind a 3.00 ERA.He was victimized by a big inning Thursday, when all three runs he allowed came in the fifth before he left with two outs in the sixth of a 4-3 loss in 12 at Pittsburgh.The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo is providing an offensive bright spot, going 8 for 20 with two doubles, two homers and five RBIs in his last five games. The first baseman homered and singled Monday.Rizzo has reached successfully in 10 of his 19 plate appearances against Bailey, walking six times.
Jake Arrieta has 21 strikeouts in 59 plate appearances that he has ended with a slider or cutter this season (35.6 percent), which is 8.1 percent above the league average among qualified starters. Jay Bruce is striking out in 43.2 percent of his plate appearances that end with a cutter or slider, which is 6th-highest in MLB among qualified hitters.