The Cincinnati Reds are starting to show signs of life after a brutal two-week funk.
Cincinnati tries to keep rolling in Thursday's series finale against the visiting Chicago Cubs, who could get All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo back.The Reds (64-69) have followed a 2-12 stretch by winning three of four after holding on for a 7-5 victory Wednesday. Skip Schumaker went 2 for 4 with two RBIs and Chris Heisey hit a pinch-hit home run as Cincinnati improved to 10-5 against Chicago this year.The Cubs (59-73) had won four straight and seven of nine. Luis Valbuena and Jorge Soler hit back-to-back homers in the second inning, but Chicago committed two of its season high-tying three errors in the fourth as the Reds scored four.Soler became the first Cub to homer in his first career at-bat since Starlin Castro did it against the Reds on May 7, 2010. Soler also had an RBI single."He looked very comfortable in the box, as we were told about him before he got here," manager Rick Renteria said.The Cubs could add even more punch to the lineup if Rizzo is able to return. He hit his 30th homer in Tuesday's series-opening 3-0 victory before exiting with a tight back.Rizzo is batting .351 with seven homers, nine RBIs and 10 runs over a 10-game stretch against Cincinnati.The Cubs will try to bounce back behind Jake Arrieta (7-4, 2.53 ERA), who has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his last six starts. The right-hander gave up one run and four hits over seven innings to beat Baltimore 4-1 on Friday in his first matchup against his former team."I think he looked more mature," Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz said. "He has command of all his pitches. He doesn't make many mistakes."Arrieta yielded three hits and struck out nine over seven innings of two-run ball in his lone appearance against the Reds, a 7-3 home victory June 24.Dylan Axelrod will be called up from Triple-A Louisville to make his second start of the year. The right-hander gave up two solo homers and struck out seven over six innings at Colorado on Aug. 17, but the bullpen allowed eight runs in a 10-5 loss."I intend to get a good look at Dylan and give him every opportunity to pitch down the stretch for us and show his value to the organization," manager Bryan Price said.Axelrod, acquired from the White Sox on July 17, was 3-2 with a 2.85 ERA over his last seven minor league outings. This marks his first appearance against the Cubs.Reds leadoff man Billy Hamilton went 2 for 5 and stole his 50th base Wednesday, becoming the ninth player in franchise history to reach that mark and the first since Deion Sanders stole 56 in 1997. Bob Bescher set the club rookie record with 54 in 1909."It's just what I do: Steal bases," Hamilton said.Hamilton is batting .350 with seven extra-base hits, 10 RBIs, 11 runs and eight steals against the Cubs this year.
Jake Arrieta has thrown 492 sliders at 88 mph or faster this season, which is the third most in MLB among pitchers to start at least 15 games. Against such pitches, the Cincinnati Reds have the third-lowest ISO in MLB at .032 (league average .087).