For the second time this month, the Reds and Cubs will meet for a three-game series, beginning Friday at Great American Ball Park.
Cincinnati goes into the weekend looking for results similar to their matchup at Wrigley Field in early May, when the Reds swept the Cubs to kick-start a streak in which they've won 14 of their last 18 games. Chicago, meanwhile, hopes to avoid dropping its third series of the season to the Reds; Cincinnati also took two of three the last week of April.
The series opener will be Bronson Arroyo's first start against the Cubs in 2013. Unfortunately for the Cubs, they couldn't have run into the 36-year-old right-hander at a worse time.
Arroyo heads into Friday coming off back-to-back shutout outings against the Brewers and Phillies. Giving up five hits in each of those two starts, Arroyo most recently went 7 2/3 innings on Saturday in Philadelphia, though he said he wasn't as sharp as he'd like to be.
"Everything worked out today," Arroyo said. "I didn't think anything was outstanding, but everything collectively was a good mix against this lineup."
The good news for the Cubs, who wrapped up a three-game series in Pittsburgh on Thursday, is that their starter on Friday, right-hander Scott Feldman, is in the midst of his own hot streak. Since taking the loss in each of his first three starts, Feldman is 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA in his past five. He also has a pair of shutout outings in that span, including 6 2/3 scoreless innings in an 8-2 win over the Mets on Saturday.
"His last five starts, he's been as good as anybody in baseball," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
It's been more than just Feldman, however. The Cubs staff as a whole has recorded 28 quality starts this season.
"Throughout all of baseball, you see runs are down and pitching is up and the quality starts [are up]," Sveum said. "St. Louis, Cincinnati, these guys have some really good rotations and then you put their bullpens in the mix and that's why they're 10, 12, 13 games over .500 because they get ahead in games and close them down. The pitching is as good as we've seen in a long time."
Reds: Coming home
Friday marks the Reds' return to Great American Ball Park after a nine-game road trip. Although Cincinnati improved on its early-season road woes by going 7-2 on that trip, the team has played its best ball at home this season.
Entering the weekend, the Reds are 16-6 in Cincinnati, making them one of the best home teams in baseball. The Reds began the year winning their first five home series for the first time since 1967, when the team won its first seven. Heading into Wednesday night's games, Cincinnati ranked third in the Majors with 120 runs scored at home, while the team's 2.87 home ERA ranked in the top five.
• Joey Votto (11) and Brandon Phillips (10) each extended hit streaks on Wednesday against the Mets. Votto went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, both of which came on his seventh home run in the third inning. Phillips also notched two hits and drove in two runs, giving him the NL lead with 40 RBIs.
• After Wednesday's game, Reds manager Dusty Baker revealed that Sean Marshall wasn't available because of possible inflammation in the 30-year-old left-hander's throwing shoulder. Marshall spent more than two weeks in April on the disabled list with left shoulder tendinitis, and he didn't feel quite right throwing before the game.
"We were kind of erring on the side of caution," Marshall said. "I did a little bit of exercise after the game. With this extra day of rest [Thursday], I will be back to how I've been feeling."
Cubs: Pitchers who can hit
Along with having one of the best rotations in baseball this season, the Cubs also have arguably the best hitting pitchers in the Majors.
In his first appearance of 2013 on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, Matt Garza hit a two-run double that gave Chicago pitchers a Major League-leading 13 RBIs this season. Two days before that, Travis Wood hit a two-run homer, which allowed the Cubs to join the Brewers as the only two teams to receive two home runs from their pitchers this season.
• The Cubs are hitting .216 with runners in scoring position this season, the lowest mark in the National League.
"The pitcher is on the ropes, not you, and I think that's our biggest problem in those situations," Sveum said. "We're letting [the pitchers] dictate the at-bat and we're not dictating those at-bats."
• Since the beginning of the 2012 season, the Reds are 17-5 against the Cubs, including a 6-3 record at Great American Ball Park.
• The Cubs' series in Cincinnati is the second leg of an eight-game road trip that started in Pittsburgh on Tuesday and ends on the South Side against the White Sox.
• In 51 career at-bats against Arroyo, Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano is hitting just .196 with 15 Ks.
Jeremy Warnemuende is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.