(SportsNetwork.com) - Alfredo Simon tries for his National League-leading 11th win Monday night, when the Cincinnati Reds open a three-game set against the Chicago Cubs.
The Reds, who have captured eight of their previous 11 games overall, have a chance to get over .500 for the first time all season. They will ride on their past success at Wrigley Field, a stadium they've won 17 of their last 19 contests. That includes taking two of three from April 18-20 this year.
Simon began the season as Cincinnati's fifth starter while Mat Latos recovered from elbow and knee surgeries, but the 33-year-old right-hander has become one of the hottest pitchers in the NL. He's won a career-high four consecutive starts, and the four-game winning streak ties for the longest in his career.
Simon, who hasn't lost since May 27 at Dodger Stadium, is coming off an 11-4 victory at Pittsburgh on Wednesday when he gave up five hits and three runs in 6 1/3 innings. Simon is 3-0 with a 2.38 ERA in 12 games (two starts) versus the Cubs.
Jeff Samardzija, who counters for the Cubs, has struggled this season and has lost two of his last three decisions. He didn't factor in the decision when facing Miami last Tuesday. Samardzija is 1-5 with a 4.54 ERA in 23 career games (nine starts) against the Reds. That includes an 0-2 mark with a 2.84 ERA in two starts against them this season.
This marks the start of a 10-game road trip for the Reds, who are 7-2 in their last nine games outside Cincinnati.
On Sunday, Johnny Cueto lowered his MLB-leading ERA in helping the Reds to a 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in the rubber match of a three-game set. Cueto (7-5) tossed eight innings and allowed three runs -- one earned -- on seven hits with eight strikeouts, lowering his ERA to 1.86 on the season. Todd Frazier homered and Jay Bruce knocked in a run for the Reds.
Right fielder Jay Bruce, who finished the series 5-for-10 with four RBI and seven runs scored, has an RBI in each of his last four games. First baseman Joey Votto has reached base in all 12 games since coming off the disabled list.
Brandon Phillips left Sunday's game with a bruised left heel for the Reds.
The Cubs dropped the final two contests of a three-game set versus Pittsburgh over the weekend at Wrigley Field. On Sunday, the Cubs mustered only two hits off Brandon Cumpton in a 2-1 final. Junior Lake and Darwin Barney opened the eighth with back-to-back singles, but Tony Watson escaped the jam by striking out two batters after a sacrifice bunt.
The Cubs had men on the corners after Pirates closer Mark Melancon gave up consecutive singles to begin the ninth. Chicago got on the board when Nate Schierholtz hit into a fielder's choice, with second baseman Josh Harrison flipping to shortstop Jordy Mercer for the second out.
Melancon then retired Lake on a flyout to right for his 12th save of the season.
"To get those two runners on early and not capitalize on it is unfortunate," said Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.