CHICAGO – Brooks Raley showed that he might be part of the Cubs' future.
Too bad he was matched up Sunday against a pitcher who is a star for the Reds now.
Johnny Cueto pitched three-hit ball for eight innings, Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick homered and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 3-0 Sunday.
Cueto (15-6) moved into a tie with New York's R.A. Dickey for the NL lead in victories. He retired the Cubs in order in four of the first five innings.
"Tough to get things going, especially today against Cueto, one of the best starters in the game," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
Back in the lineup after sitting for two games because of a recent slump, Bruce hit a two-run shot into the right-field bleachers in the fifth off Raley (0-2), the Cubs' rookie lefty. Ludwick connected with a drive to left in the sixth.
"(Raley) did a great job," Sveum said. "A couple of flyballs that went out weren't even hit that good."
Aroldis Chapman earned the save for the third game in a row, his 28th of the season.
In his second big league start in place of injured right-hander Matt Garza, Raley retired the first 13 Reds. He allowed five hits and three runs over six innings after giving up eight hits and seven runs in his first outing at San Diego.
"Five days between starts, it gives you an opportunity to see the older guys, see what they do, and try to learn from it," Raley said." The biggest thing I saw from everybody else starting is throwing strike one. Getting ahead in the count. And keeping the ball down."
Chicago has lost 11 of 12, with seven of those losses coming by two or fewer runs. The Cubs have been shut out four times since July 31.
"We're right back in the same bucket we were in the first couple of months, when we just couldn't get anything going," Sveum said. "Soriano's home run is I think the only home run we hit this series."
The Reds have won three straight after snapping a season-worst five-game losing streak on Friday. Cincinnati's 22-8 record since the All-Star break is best in the majors.
Cueto, a leading NL Cy Young candidate, has allowed three runs or fewer in 20 of 24 starts and lowered his ERA to 2.45. Raley said he learned a lot just by watching the Cincinnati ace.
"I was watching him from the on-deck circle," Raley said. "He hides the ball extremely well. He gets ahead in the count with a lot of different stuff.
"He throws a lot of things at you and he's not really predictable at all," Raley added. "He's obviously a great pitcher and showed that today."
The Cubs put runners on the corners with one out in the sixth, the only time they had a runner reach third base. Cueto escaped the threat by getting Anthony Rizzo on an inning-ending double play.
Raley matched Cueto in the early innings, not allowing a baserunner until Todd Frazier singled with one out in the fifth. Bruce followed with his team-high 22nd homer of the season.
"Really nothing changed," Raley said. "Frazier I thought hit a good pitch. You make a 2-0 mistake to Bruce, he makes you pay. That's part of the game. Got a lot to learn, but I thought it was a good experience."
Frazier, who singled twice and scored, went 9 for 15 with six RBIs in the four-game series.
"Frazier is a bonafide major league hitter, which we all saw in the last four days," Sveum said.
While the Reds are competing for a division title, count Raley among those expecting better things from the Cubs down the line, not that it makes the losses sting any less.
"Obviously we want to win more than anybody," Raley said. "It's rough for us, too. We've got to sit in there after loss after loss. We've got to try to bounce back and make some adjustments and get better."
NOTES: Veteran Luis Valbuena started at third base for the Cubs for the second straight day. Manager Dale Sveum said that recent callup Josh Vitters would begin seeing more playing time at 3B, perhaps starting all three games in Chicago's upcoming series against Houston. ... Cubs rookie Brett Jackson singled for the first hit off Cueto, breaking an 0 for 13 skid.