Preview: Cubs at Reds

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[August 22, 2017]  Gracenote

The Chicago Cubs haven't been able to gain much separation in the tight National League Central race, but they have an opportunity to do so when they begin a three-game road series against the last-place Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday. The Cubs enter the series with a 2 1/2-game lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central after sweeping a three-game series from visiting Toronto over the weekend.

Chicago has a golden opportunity to pad its lead with a six-game road trip to Cincinnati and Philadelphia - both last-place teams. "It's that time of year, sink or swim now," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo told reporters. "We've got to just keep going and play clean baseball. I think we are." The Reds have played better of late, winning four of their last six and splitting a four-game series in Chicago last week. The Cubs lead the season series 8-5, and the teams have split six contests in Cincinnati.

TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, MLB Network, WGN (Chicago), FSN Ohio (Cincinnati)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs RH John Lackey (10-9, 4.67 ERA) vs. Reds RH Homer Bailey (4-6, 8.44)

Lackey is 5-0 with a 3.06 ERA in six starts since the All-Star break. The 38-year-old pitched well enough to win against the Reds last week in Chicago, allowing one run and four hits over six innings, but didn't get a decision. Lackey is 6-5 with a 3.75 ERA in 16 starts against Cincinnati.

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Bailey has had a wild ride the past six weeks, allowing six or more runs and two or fewer runs in an alternating pattern over his last eight outings. The 31-year-old was tagged for six runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings at Chicago on Wednesday, so he's due for a bounce-back performance. Bailey is 8-3 with a 4.66 ERA in 17 starts against the Cubs.

WALK-OFFS

1. Rizzo was named NL Player of the Week on Monday after batting .429 with two homers and 13 RBIs last week.

2. Reds 3B Eugenio Suarez is 7-for-20 with a homer and five RBIs during a six-game hitting streak.

3. Cubs LF Kyle Schwarber is batting .267 with eight home runs, five doubles and 12 RBIs in 35 games since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa.

PREDICTION: Cubs 7, Reds 4

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