Even if that's not the case, the Reds are more than aware that while every series matters, it's crucial to win contests within the division, something they'll keep in mind when they travel to Wrigley Field to open a three-game set against the Cubs on Friday afternoon.
It's been a strong start to the second half for Cincinnati, which has gone 5-0-1 in series play since the All-Star break. This series takes on even more meaning for the Reds, who can't get caught looking ahead to their following series against the Cardinals.
Cincy will hand the ball off to Bronson Arroyo, who has proved to be a consistent member of the rotation. Arroyo has gone five or more innings in his past six starts, allowing no more than three runs in all but one of them.
He tossed one of his more impressive starts of the season in a battle with the first-place Braves on Saturday, with seven scoreless innings.
"I had good command. I just didn't have a lot of zip on my fastball," Arroyo said of Saturday's outing. "I was locating, but throwing 85-86 mph until the last couple of innings."
The Cubs will need to capitalize on every opportunity that Arroyo gives them, because there aren't likely to be many. Hitting with runners in scoring position has been a struggle for the Cubs this season, but it's been a focus of late.
"When you look at our situation, what you need more than anything else is to take advantage of scoring opportunities," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said on Wednesday. "Teams that win with consistency do better jobs at it."
Reds: Stubbs, Bruce look to get hot at plate
There's no question that some of the Reds' regulars, including Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce, have been struggling of late. Stubbs hasn't been in the lineup for a few days as he tries to work himself out of his funk. He has one hit in his past 32 at-bats (.032).
Reds manager Dusty Baker offered his insights on his sluggers' struggles, citing that the problem -- pitch recognition -- isn't a complex one, but it can be difficult to fix.
"[Stubbs] is behind the fastball and ahead of the breaking ball -- that's called no-man's land.," Baker said. "And anybody who's played has been there. It's just the great ones, they just visit for a couple days. The rest of us, we're assigned there for sometime."
Cubs: Gorzelanny coming off stellar month
Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny is charged with getting the Cubs off to a strong start against the division-leading Reds. Gorzelanny turned in a stellar month of July, going 4-0 with a 4.20 ERA. He stumbled a bit in his last start, allowing five earned runs to the Rockies, but was saved by the offense. Gorzelanny walked only two batters in his last start, but his control has been his undoing at times this season.
Piniella announced on Wednesday that Carlos Zambrano will return to the rotation on Monday in San Francisco. It will be his first start since June 25. ... Tyler Colvin hit his 17th homer of the season on Wednesday to lead all rookies. ... Reds pitching coach Bryan Price offered an update on Aaron Harang, who tossed a bullpen session Tuesday and has been on the DL since July 6 with lower back spasms: "He will throw another bullpen [session] in Chicago, then a simulated game during the next homestand, probably when St. Louis is in town [Monday]. It's a somewhat conservative approach."
Fri, 8/6 2:20 PM ET
Arroyo continues to chew up Cubs at Wrigley
Bronson Arroyo allowed five hits over seven shutout innings, giving him 13 spotless frames over two wins this season at Wrigley, and Ryan Hanigan hit a two-run homer as the Reds remained in first in the NL Central.
|Phillips, B, 2B||5||0||1||1||0||0||2||.290|
|Gomes, J, LF||4||0||0||0||0||3||5||.270|
|Castro, S, SS||4||0||0||0||0||1||2||.313|
|Lee, D, 1B||4||0||0||0||0||2||0||.249|
|Ramirez, Ar, 3B||3||0||1||0||1||0||0||.224|
|a-Baker, Je, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.238|
2B: Francisco (2, Berg).
HR: Hanigan (3, 2nd inning off Gorzelanny, 1 on, 0 out).
TB: Phillips, B; Rolen 2; Bruce; Hanigan 4; Janish; Francisco 2.
RBI: Hanigan 2 (27), Phillips, B (43).
2-out RBI: Phillips, B.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Gomes, J 2; Bruce; Heisey 2; Hanigan.
GIDP: Phillips, B.
Team RISP: 1-for-9.
Team LOB: 8.
TB: Ramirez, Ar; Byrd; Fukudome; DeWitt; Soto.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Colvin; Fukudome; Castro, S 2; DeWitt.
Team RISP: 0-for-6.
Team LOB: 7.
CS: Fukudome (5, 2nd base by Arroyo/Hanigan).
DP: (Castro, S-DeWitt-Lee, D).
HBP: Heisey (by Gorzelanny).
Pitches-strikes: Arroyo 105-68, Rhodes 17-10, Cordero 28-13, Gorzelanny 117-76, Cashner 21-15, Berg 16-11.
Groundouts-flyouts: Arroyo 6-4, Rhodes 0-3, Cordero 1-0, Gorzelanny 7-6, Cashner 0-1, Berg 2-0.
Batters faced: Arroyo 26, Rhodes 3, Cordero 5, Gorzelanny 29, Cashner 5, Berg 4.
Umpires: HP: Andy Fletcher. 1B: Mike Everitt. 2B: Adrian Johnson. 3B: Tim McClelland.
Weather: 79 degrees, sunny.
Wind: 9 mph, In from RF.
Compiled by MLB Advanced Media