National League Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, September 20th
(All times Eastern)
Cincinnati Reds (90-59) at Chicago Cubs (58-91), 2:20 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Cincinnati - Johnny Cueto (17-9, 2.92)
Chicago - Jason Berken (0-1, 4.50)
(Sports Network) - Cincinnati wins leader Johnny Cueto gets another chance to
end a brief tailspin on Thursday when the Reds return to Wrigley Field aiming
to lock up a playoff spot in the finale of a three-game series with the host
Cueto was included in many National League Cy Young Award discussions after he
improved to 17-6 with a 5-2 defeat of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 28 -
but has since dropped three consecutive starts to fall behind Washington's Gio
Gonzalez and New York's R.A. Dickey.
Cueto has failed to last five innings in two of the three starts and has
combined to allow 14 runs on 26 hits in 15 1/3 innings against Philadelphia,
Houston and Miami.
He's 7-6 in 17 career starts against the Cubs, with the most recent matchup
coming on Aug. 18 and ending in a 5-3 win after he allowed three hits and two
runs in eight innings at Cincinnati.
He also tossed eight innings six days earlier against the Cubs at Wrigley,
allowing three hits and no runs in a 3-0 Reds win.
Cueto is 8-6 in 17 road starts in 2012.
He's opposed by 28-year-old lefty Jason Berken, who makes his second start in
his second appearance with the Cubs.
A 2006 draftee of the Baltimore Orioles, Berken debuted in the majors with
them in 2009 and was with them through earlier this season - making one relief
appearance on May 7 in a 14-3 loss to Texas.
The Cubs picked him up on waivers in early September and immediately put him
to work in a Sept. 15 start against Pittsburgh, in which he allowed two earned
runs on eight hits in four innings of a loss.
Berken has faced the Reds once, in relief, in his career, allowing a run on
two hits in an inning with a walk and two strikeouts.
On Wednesday, Drew Stubbs knocked in the game-winning run in the 11th inning
to lift the Reds to a 6-5 win over the Cubs and cut his team's magic number to
clinch at least a wild card spot to one.
Cincinnati's magic number to claim the NL Central title dropped to three.
Facing Alberto Cabrera (0-1) with two outs, Brandon Phillips lifted a fly ball
to right field, but the ball skipped off David DeJesus' glove and Phillips
Stubbs followed with a line drive single to left field to score Phillips.
The Cubs had the bases loaded in the 10th, but couldn't get a run home.
Starlin Castro singled then moved up to third on heads-up base running when
Luis Valbuena dropped a fly ball in between three Reds fielders.
Following a Welington Castro strike out, Brett Jackson walked to load the
bases, but Logan Ondrusek (5-2) got pinch-hitter Steve Clevenger to ground out
to end the threat.
Jonathan Broxton retired the side in order in the bottom of the 11th to pick
up his fourth save as a Red.
Stubbs finished 3-for-5 and scored three runs and Joey Votto went 2-for-4 with
three RBI for the Reds, who were without manager Dusty Baker.
Prior to the game, Baker visited a Chicago-area hospital for chest X-rays to
rule out pneumonia, according to a team spokesman.
"I guess the good thing is it's not pneumonia, but the bad thing is he's got
an irregular heartbeat," Cincinnati trainer Paul Lessard said. "So basically
they're going to keep him over at the hospital and run some more tests in the
morning before he is set free."
Alfonso Soriano clubbed a two-run homer and Castro had four hits and drove in
a run for Chicago, which has lost three in a row.
"We battled and battled back after being down, but we have to get a little
better in situations of making contact and cutting our swings down in bigger
situations," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
The Reds won nine of the first 13 games between the teams in 2012, including
three of four in a series from Aug. 17-19 in Cincinnati.
09/20 10:28:31 ET
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