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COL@CIN: Bailey strikes out seven over seven innings

The best baseball of the season has been played in the National League Central, where three of the game's top teams call home.

"It's one of the elite divisions in baseball right now, mainly because of the pitching," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.

Although the fourth-place Cubs don't have the record to match first-place St. Louis, or Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, they do have the pitching, which they'll put on display Monday night in the opener of a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field.

There's a big divide in the NL Central, with more than 10 games separating the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates from the Cubs and Brewers. Bullpen issues and the failure to produce in clutch situations aside, a big reason for the Cubs' fourth-place standing has been their inability to compete against division foes.

The Cubs, who just dropped two of three to the Pirates, are 7-18 against the NL Central -- tied with the White Sox for the fewest wins by a team within its division.

The Cubs see another tough arm on Monday in Reds right-hander Homer Bailey, who was a victim of a blown save his last time out. Bailey defeated the Cubs on May 25 in Cincinnati, allowing two runs and striking out eight in six innings. He is 3-1 with a 3.20 ERA in four career starts at Wrigley Field.

The 27-year-old righty has really only struggled a couple of times this season, twice allowing a season-high seven runs. He has a 2.44 ERA in his 10 other starts.

The Cubs counter with right-hander Scott Feldman, who has turned in quality starts in seven of his past eight outings. The lone bump during that stretch came against the Reds, who touched Feldman for five runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings on May 24.

Reds: All-time greats
Brandon Phillips is one home run and three RBIs shy of tying Joe Morgan for the most all-time among Reds' second basemen. Phillips, who already has the most hits and doubles, has 151 homers and 609 RBIs.

With 140 homers at first base, Joey Votto's next homer will tie him with Tony Perez for the second-most all-time for a Reds first baseman.

• The Reds have won 14 of their last 21 road games since a season-high eight-game road skid.

Cubs: Rizzo's lucky 13
First baseman Anthony Rizzo walked twice on Sunday and now has reached base in 13 straight games, a new career high.

• The Cubs have a minus-31 run differential from the sixth inning on.

• Chicago's lone hit in 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position during its three-game series against the Pirates was Cody Ransom's three-run homer on Sunday.

Worth noting
• With 1,618 career victories, Reds manager Dusty Baker's next win will tie him with Ralph Houk for the 16th-most wins in Major League history.

• The Cubs have drawn 25 walks in their last six games. Comments