Given the way the Reds have owned the Cubs over the past two seasons, this week's three-game series at Great American Ball Park is a surprising one.
The Cubs entered Monday's series opener losers of 13 of 16 games against the Reds this season, but they have a chance to sweep the final series between the two teams on Wednesday. The Reds, who went 12-4 against the Cubs in 2012, have fallen three games back of the Cardinals for the top spot in the National League Central, but still have a firm grasp on the second Wild Card.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum knows his team won't have an impact on which NL Central teams make the postseason, but with 11 games left against the Reds, Pirates and Cardinals, they may affect who wins the division.
"We're trying to win every game we can," Sveum said. "Obviously we're in a situation where we're playing the best guys in our division and pretty much -- unless some miracle happens -- in the playoffs. It's not the true spoiler or beating anybody and knocking them out. The odds of that, it's just not going to happen."
Still, the Cubs can affect the order of the Central's top three teams, and Jeff Samardzija will get a crack at starting that with a sweep of the Reds on Wednesday. Baseball will honor the 12th anniversary of 9/11 prior to the first pitch.
Samardzija (8-11, 4.29 ERA) will make his team-leading 30th start and will face the Reds for the fifth time this season. In his four previous meetings against Cincinnati, the right-hander was 0-1 with a 4.13 ERA.
Mike Leake (12-6, 3.46) will get the call for the Reds to try and avoid the sweep, making his fourth start this season against the Cubs. In his previous three starts against the Cubs, the righty was 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA.
Leake will try to match Bronson Arroyo for second most wins on the Reds.
After allowing four earned runs or more in four straight starts, Leake found a rhythm in his last outing, on Friday against the Dodgers. He earned the win, limiting them to two earned runs on five hits in 7 2/3 innings.
"I felt good," Leake said. "I got in a rhythm. [Catcher Devin Mesoraco] and I worked really well today, just hitting spots and throwing with some attitude and conviction."
Reds: Cingrani exits with back spasms
Reds starting pitcher Tony Cingrani left his Tuesday start against the Cubs in the second inning with back spasms.
With two outs and Cubs starter Edwin Jackson at the plate, Cingrani was visited at the mound by a trainer and pitching coach Bryan Price and left shortly after.
Cingrani, who has a 7-4 record and 2.92 ERA in 23 games and 18 starts this season, experienced back issues earlier this season when he left his Aug. 20 start with a lower back strain. He missed two starts while on the 15-day disabled list.
• Dusty Baker decided to give Mesoraco a day off on Tuesday with his usual batterymate Cingrani on the mound. Baker said Mesoraco would be back in the lineup for the series finale on Wednesday.
"We've got a day game tomorrow, early 12:30 [p.m. ET], hot game," Baker said. "Leake is pitching. I thought it would be excessive for him to catch tonight and the early game tomorrow. Plus, [Ryan Hanigan] has been swinging better than Meso is right now."
Mesoraco grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning on Tuesday.
• Joey Votto went 2-for-3 on Tuesday and is now 8-for-15 following a lengthy slump.
• Zack Cozart extended his career-high hitting streak to 15 games with a seventh-inning double.
Cubs: Sveum says Cubs will go with six-man rotation
The Cubs figure to get two more looks at right-hander Scott Baker this season with Sveum's announcement that the team will go with a six-man starting rotation for the next two turns.
"Nothing changes, really," Sveum said. "Everybody will get their same amount of starts, everybody will just get a little bit extra rest."
Baker returned to the Majors on Sunday after an absence of more than two years since his last big league start. Baker, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2012, is under contract with the Cubs through the end of the season, and his final two starts will give the team a final chance to watch him, starting with his Saturday start in Pittsburgh.
On Sunday, the 31-year-old threw five scoreless innings against the Brewers and took a no-decision.
• Catcher Welington Castillo hit his fifth and sixth home runs on Tuesday, the first of which traveled 471 feet.
• The Cubs surpassed their win total from last season with their 62nd win on Tuesday, 9-1 over the Reds.
• The Reds used 24 players on Tuesday, while the Cubs used 12. The last time the Reds used 24 players was in their 16-inning loss to the Cardinals on Sept. 4.
• The first four Reds pitchers threw 1 2/3 innings against the Cubs on Tuesday.
Kevin Massoth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.