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CIN@COL: Cueto tosses eight innings, allows two runs

Things haven't been even between the Cubs and Reds for a long time.

When the teams start their three-game set at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday, Cincinnati will be aiming for its 10th win of the year over Chicago. In the last three seasons, the Reds lead the series 35-13.

That control over Chicago extends to Tuesday starter Johnny Cueto, who is 9-6 with a 2.90 ERA in 20 career games facing the North Siders.

The All-Star righty has a 5-0 record and a 1.55 ERA in his last eight starts vs. the Cubs dating back to Sept. 7, 2011. The last time he faced them, he yielded two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings on July 8, which was the beginning of Cueto's seven-game winning streak that ended last Wednesday in St. Louis.

For five straight starts before his last turn, Cueto had emerged the victor and lasted at least seven innings. But the Cardinals tagged him for five runs (four earned) on seven hits in five-plus innings, his shortest outing since a five-inning performance on July 20.

The Cubs' Travis Wood, meanwhile, will try to break out of a six-game losing streak. In 12 starts since his last win on June 15 in Philadelphia, Wood is 0-6 with a 5.45 ERA.

He scattered four runs, walked one batter and struck out six Giants across six innings on Thursday.

When he last faced the Reds on July 8, Wood allowed four runs (three earned) in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander is 1-5 with a 3.68 ERA in eight career starts against his former team.

Reds: Offense cold since All-Star break
Much has changed for Cincinnati since the last time they met Chicago in July. The Reds won four of five games against the Cubs then, which pulled them within 2 1/2 games of the National League Central lead.

But they're 14-25 since that series and are now 9 1/2 games out of first in the division.

Cincinnati's struggles can be traced back to poor second-half hitting. Reds batters ranked last in the Majors in on-base percentage (.272) and 29th in runs (113) and batting average (.219) since the All-Star break before breaking out for 10 hits and five runs on Sunday.

"I don't think there's any quit in this team," manager Bryan Price said. "We can play a lot better than we have."

Cubs: Influx of youth energizes team
Chicago has been busy recalling players from Triple-A Iowa for over a week. And this weekend against the Orioles, the team reaped some benefits from that youth movement.

Thanks to contributions from rookies like Logan Watkins, Javier Baez and Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs managed to win the first two games of their series vs. Baltimore. The Cubs went on to sweep the AL East-leading team on Sunday.

"There's some energy," manager Rick Renteria said. "I'm hopeful the energy they have with the guys who have been here is coming together. It doesn't hurt when you're playing good baseball and your spirits are uplifted when you have some of the young men coming through in big situations with timely hits or some really nice defensive plays."

Overall, the Cubs have fielded 12 rookies this year. Their seven rookie pitchers had combined for a 2.55 ERA in 120 games (17 starts), an 11-8 record, three saves and 25 holds entering Sunday.

"Basically it just breeds confidence," Renteria said. "You have to tip your cap to the guys in the Minor Leagues working with these young men and preparing them to get here."

Worth noting
• Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro will return from the bereavement list on Tuesday.

• The Cubs have won more games this August (13) than they did one year ago, when they went 8-20 in that month.

• Reds outfielder Jay Bruce snapped an 0-for-13 skid with two hits on Sunday. He's hitting .333 with 12 RBIs against the Cubs this year.

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