Cincinnati looks to avoid a season-high fifth straight loss Thursday night when it plays the first of four in Chicago against a Cubs squad that has dropped eight in a row.
The Reds head into Wrigley Field after being swept in a three-game series at Milwaukee this week.
Cincinnati (66-45) has batted .167 and totaled eight runs during its four-game skid after averaging 5.6 runs and hitting .284 while winning 15 of its previous 16. The slump has diminished the Reds' division lead to 2 1/2 games over second-place Pittsburgh.
"We'll get it together and make another nice run," manager Dusty Baker told the Reds' official website. "That's why you run the race, and that's why you play the whole season."
Facing the Cubs could help Cincinnati get it together. Chicago (43-66) has lost eight straight, getting shut out three times.
Jay Bruce , who is 3 for his last 18 with eight strikeouts, may be particularly pleased to see the Cubs. He's hitting .343 in his last 20 games in this series, and is 5 for 15 in four games this year.
He'll try to help the Reds avoid their first five-game losing streak since a six-game slide May 18-23, 2011.
The Cubs, who are batting .169 during their skid, managed five hits and had one error in a 2-0 loss to San Diego on Wednesday as the Padres completed a three-game sweep."You've got to be ready to show up and play the game, regardless of your record, regardless of how you feel," losing pitcher Jeff Samardzija said.
Alfonso Soriano returned to the lineup after missing the previous game with a sore right hand. He went 0 for 2 with a walk and was hit by a pitch.
Soriano is 1 for 13 against Thursday's probable Cincinnati starter Mike Leake (4-7, 4.51 ERA).
The right-hander is 4-2 with a 3.20 ERA in eight starts against the Cubs, but struggled against them earlier this season, allowing five runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 6-1 loss April 21.
Leake gave up four runs in six innings against the Pirates on Saturday, not getting a decision in a 5-4 victory - the last game the Reds won.
The Cubs will counter with Chris Volstad (0-8, 7.22), who has lost his last five starts and is 0-13 in his last 21, going back to a victory over Houston on July 10, 2011 while pitching for the Marlins.
Volstad, whom the Cubs recalled from Triple-A Iowa last week, gave up two runs in seven innings of a 3-1 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday. The runs allowed were his fewest in a major league start this season.
"The streak is there for no reason of his tonight," Chicago manager Dale Sveum said. "He gave up two runs in seven innings to that lineup, you've far and above done your job to win a baseball game."
The right-hander allowed six runs in five innings of a 9-4 defeat to the Reds on April 20, falling to 1-3 with a 5.32 ERA in his career against them.
Cincinnati owns a 3-2 edge in the season series with the Cubs.
|August 01, 2012||Devin Mesoraco||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 01, 2012||Wilson Valdez||Day-to-Day||Left game - stiff neck|
|July 31, 2012||Brandon Phillips||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left calf|
|July 31, 2012||Bill Bray||15-Day DL||Lumbar muscle strain|
|July 31, 2012||Devin Mesoraco||Day-to-Day||Left game - dizziness|
|July 16, 2012||Joey Votto||Day-to-Day||Torn meniscus, left knee - out 3-4 weeks|
|July 28, 2012||Matt Garza||15-Day DL||Stress reaction, right elbow|
|July 21, 2012||Matt Garza||Day-to-Day||Left game - right triceps cramp|
|June 16, 2012||Ryan Dempster||15-Day DL||Right lat tightness|
|June 16, 2012||Ryan Dempster||15-Day DL||Right lat tightness|
|June 13, 2012||Ian Stewart||15-Day DL||Sore left wrist|
|June 02, 2012||Blake Parker||60-Day DL||Stress reaction in right elbow|
CHICAGO (AP) -- In a clubhouse starved for a veteran presence, Alfonso Soriano is embracing the task.
Soriano hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning and the Chicago Cubs snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 5-3 win over the slumping Cincinnati Reds on a rain-soaked Thursday night.
With an influx of youngsters filling up the Cubs' locker room, Soriano knows he is one of the few experienced players his new teammates can turn to.
"I have to play hard just because those kids see me, and I'm the veteran on the team. So I have to show the kids how to play the game," Soriano said.
With the score tied at 3, Reds reliever Sean Marshall (4-4) walked Anthony Rizzo . Just as the skies cleared up, Soriano cracked a two-run shot to center field off Logan Ondrusek .
Shawn Camp (3-5) pitched a perfect eighth for the win and Carlos Marmol worked the ninth for his 14th save in 16 chances.
Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart homered for Cincinnati after the start was delayed by rain for 1 hour, 20 minutes. The NL Central leaders lost their fifth straight but remained 2 1/2 games ahead of second-place Pittsburgh.
It was Soriano's 20th home run. He joined Albert Pujols and David Ortiz as the only active players with 20 or more homers in 11 straight seasons.
"I'm very happy with myself," Soriano said. "I never saw myself as a home run hitter, but 11 years in a row, 20 in a row, I have to be very proud of myself."
Soriano also joined Hall of Famer Andre Dawson as the only players in Cubs history to reach 20 homers in their first six seasons with the club.
"Those kind of guys, they hit. They've always hit," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "That's what they were born to do."
Starlin Castro tied it in the sixth with a two-run double off Cincinnati starter Mike Leake . Castro was mired in a 1-for-24 slump before hitting a liner off the center-field wall.
Cubs right-hander Chris Volstad is winless in 22 starts since July 17, 2011. The 25-year-old pitcher allowed three runs and six hits over six innings, including two solo homers.
It took 35 pitches for Volstad to work his way out of a two-run first inning.
Cozart greeted Volstad with his fourth leadoff home run, capping an eight-pitch at-bat. It was his 13th of the season.
Frazier took Volstad deep in the fourth for his 14th homer of the year.
Volstad let at least one runner aboard in each inning he pitched, but managed to escape with a quality start.
"We scored early and kind of cruised for a while and when you do that any team is going to make a run," Cozart said. "They got a couple of big hits by Castro and Soriano, and we didn't."
Leake was charged with three runs in six innings. He struck out five and walked two.
"The one pitch to Castro kind of beat me," Leake said.
The right-hander cruised through five innings before Castro came through with runners on first and third. Leake had given up nine runs in his last two starts, a span of just 7 2-3 innings.
"Nothing mentally changed," Leake said. "I just wasn't attacking them."
Rizzo got the Cubs on the board in the first with an RBI single to score David DeJesus .
Rizzo reached base four times, including a double to lead off the fourth, but the 23-year-old slugger was too aggressive on the basepaths and was thrown out at third trying to advance on Soriano's groundout.
Former first-round draft pick Brett Jackson went 0 for 3 in his home debut for Chicago.
NOTES: Cubs C Steve Clevenger was ejected in the fifth for arguing balls and strikes. ... Chicago RHP Matt Garza , out indefinitely with a stress reaction in his right elbow, wants to pitch again this season. "I'm hoping to, that's why I'm working my tail off to get back," he said. ... The Reds activated C Devin Mesoraco (concussion) from the 7-day disabled list and optioned C Dioner Navarro to Triple-A Louisville. ... Homer Bailey (9-7, 3.98 ERA) pitches Friday for Cincinnati against Justin Germano (1-1, 3.38) in the second game of the four-game set.