By MATT BECKER, STATS Writer
The Cincinnati Reds return home from a nine-game road trip tied for the NL Central lead and riding their longest winning streak of the season.
The Reds look to win eight straight games for the first time in nearly seven years when they open a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ballpark on Thursday.
Cincinnati (35-24) opened its road trip with back-to-back losses to the Cubs (23-35), before rallying to win seven straight including a sweep over the first-place St. Louis Cardinals.
The sweep moved the Reds into a tie for first with St. Louis, the latest Cincinnati has been in first place in a season since being 34-25 on June 10, 2004.
"I think a lot of people will probably pick up the paper tomorrow and read it and go 'Who the hell is that? What's going on?"' said Rich Aurilia, who matched career highs with four hits and five RBIs in Wednesday's 7-4 victory. "We've played really well the last week."
The Reds are averaging 7.4 runs while batting .303 with 13 home runs during their winning streak, and have not won eight consecutive games since winning 10 straight from June 21-July 1, 1999.
Ken Griffey Jr. did not play Wednesday because of a tight left quadriceps muscle, but Reds manager Jerry Narron expects him back in the lineup for Thursday's contest.
Griffey is batting .471 (16-for-34) with four home runs and eight RBIs during an eight-game hitting streak.
Adam Dunn is 11-for-29 (.379) with five home runs in eight games against the Cubs this season, and is 10-for-25 (.400) with six homers and 12 RBIs in his career against Thursday's Cubs starter, Glendon Rusch.
Despite Dunn's gaudy numbers, Rusch (2-5, 6.86 ERA) also has to worry about facing Cardinals starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo.
Arroyo (7-2, 2.40) has homered off Rusch twice this season, in an 8-6 win over the Cubs on April 5 at Cincinnati and again in a 9-2 victory at Wrigley Field on April 11.
"He's been swinging it good all year," Rusch said. "I need to worry about pitching the rest of the lineup tough, and hopefully we're swinging the bats well against him."
Arroyo went 3-for-3 with a career-high four RBIs, while allowing two unearned runs and eight hits in six innings in a 7-5 win over Houston on Saturday.
The right-hander has allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his 12 starts, and the Reds are 9-3 when he takes the mound.
Arroyo is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA in two starts against Chicago this season, both of them wins over Rusch.
The Cubs have split the first six games of their 10-game road trip, and had just three hits in their 1-0 loss to Houston on Wednesday.
Right fielder Jacque Jones is 11-for-22 with two homers during the road trip, while catcher Michael Barrett is 10-for-23 (.435) with a double and a home run.
Rusch allowed three runs and four hits in five innings in an 8-5 win over St. Louis on Saturday for his first win since April 16 after making seven relief appearances in May.
The left-hander is 1-5 with a 5.76 ERA in 10 career starts against the Red
That was a fun article to read. I pulled it off the Yahoo sports page. It appears Arroyo is putting in some serious work for two clubs. ;)