After a tough start, posting a 6.15 ERA in April, Homer Bailey is beginning to come through for Cincinnati. One reason for his success has been his ability to avoid home runs -- he gave up seven in April, then three in May (five starts, 4.26 ERA) and only two thus far in June (four starts, 3.81 ERA).
"I think just overall command, quality of his stuff," manager Bryan Price said. "When he's locked in, his fastball command is about as good as anybody in our starting rotation. So we're starting to see that type of breakthrough where he's starting to really execute good pitches."
Price also mentioned some adjustments that Bailey made to his delivery:
"The other thing is -- and I think this is important because we play each other in the division so often -- is he made some changes in his delivery so he has a little bit more deception," Price said. "I think there might have been certain teams that saw where he may have been tipping some pitches. He's going up over his head with his hands, which is something he didn't do before, and I think that also is paying some dividends with him."
Bailey said his game is still a work in progress.
"Anytime you're going through the season, you're constantly making adjustments," Bailey said. "It's a term that's overly used, but everything's fine. Our staff has been doing pretty well. Our hitters are really starting to come along as of late. When that kind of stuff starts happening, it helps your pitchers to go out there and be able to relax."
He should know. He gets an average of five runs of support per game, tied for fourth in the National League.
Cubs starter Jake Arrieta doesn't get very much run support. Chicago has only averaged three runs in his past five starts, but he hasn't needed much help lately.
Last Wednesday against Philadelphia, Arrieta gave up one run over seven innings and lowered his ERA to 1.98. He struck out 11, topping his previous career high of nine, which he set in his previous outing against the Phillies on June 13. The right-hander now has 20 strikeouts over his last two starts.
"He's just commanding his fastball better, and his breaking ball is starting to really get some bite and location," manager Rick Renteria said. "He's just pitching and attacking hitters. He's got great stuff and it has a lot of movement and when he executes, he's pretty good."
Arrieta said he's not doing anything different, but agreed with Renteria that the difference is his command.
"Strikeouts are just a byproduct of throwing several plus pitches for strikes and keeping the ball down," Arrieta said.
Cubs: Pitching has been the key to wins
After going 9-17 in April, then 11-16 in May, the Cubs are finally on track for a winning month. Despite Monday's loss, the team is 11-10 in June.
What's the difference?
"Our pitching has been very good," Renteria said. "The back end of the bullpen has solidified and the guys have taken well to the different roles. We've been swinging the bat much better. We've had clutch hitting, timely hitting, pitching and defense. The guys have just been playing. They keep grinding and playing, and I think they're learning a little about each other and they continue to develop a relationship and an idea of who they are and how they work together."
Chicago has been carrying an extra reliever, and Renteria says it's helped avoid over-working guys, and the bullpen feeds off each other.
"They kind of challenge [each other], and the expectations continue to rise as one goes out and does something, the next one wants to do the same thing," Renteria said. "They're building on each other."
Reds: Price thinks Reds prepared for the road
The Reds are 9-3 on the road this month, improving their overall record away from Cincinnati to 19-19. Manager Bryan Price sees that trend continuing for the rest of the season because his club has so many veteran players.
"I think we're too experienced to not play fairly consistently on the road and not to see it as a big detriment when we go on the road," Price said. "We still expect to win."
• Arrieta has not allowed more than one earned run in four straight starts. His ERA in that span is 0.73, and he's only allowed 17 hits in 24 2/3 innings.
• The Cubs have not had a winning month since they went 13-12 last July.
Alex M. Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.