(SportsNetwork.com) - The Cincinnati Reds hit the road for the first time this season on Monday when they take on the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field for the opener of a three-game series between National League Central rivals.
Cincinnati's offense scuffled over the weekend in back-to-back losses to St. Louis, as the Reds hitters were just 2-for-27 with runners in scoring position. They played 11 innings against the Cardinals on Sunday, only to fall, 7-5, on Matt Carpenter's two-run home run off Kevin Gregg.
Earlier, Jumbo Diaz gave up a two-run blast to Jhonny Peralta in the eighth to force extra innings.
"It was a game that was there to win and we didn't get it done. You don't win championships when you let games like this get away," said manager Bryan Price.
The Reds skipper rested catcher Devin Mesoraco and left fielder Marlon Byrd on Sunday. Both are expected back in the lineup for Monday's opener, which kicks off a 10-game road swing for Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, Chicago is looking to stay hot after winning two straight in Colorado over the weekend. Trailing 5-3 in the ninth inning of Sunday's rubber match, the Cubs rallied to win it, 6-5, behind an RBI single from Welington Castillo and then a two-run homer off the bat of Dexter Fowler.
The Cubs now sit above .500 for the first time since they were 2-1 on April 4, 2013.
To stay there, they'll need to solve Reds starter Mike Leake, who has won four consecutive starts against the Cubs while posting a 1.71 ERA in that span. However, the right-hander struggled with command in his season debut against the Pirates, walking six batters (two intentionally) for the first time since his big league debut in April of 2010. Leake's final line was 107 pitches in 5 2/3 innings, with three runs allowed on five hits. He also fanned six, although only 56 of his pitches were for strikes.
Jon Lester, the Cubs' prized offseason acquisition, will try to rebound from a shaky first outing for his new team against an opponent he has never faced. The southpaw lasted only 4 1/3 innings last Sunday against St. Louis, tying his shortest start from all of 2014, as he gave up three runs on eight hits.
"The biggest thing is getting that angle and keeping that angle throughout the game," Lester said after that 3-0 loss. "It was there at times. I threw some cutters that weren't real good, real flat tonight. That can't happen. I'm looking forward to getting into a rhythm, getting into a flow with the season."
Also of note, Lester allowed three stolen bases in as many attempts. The Reds are currently tied for the major league lead with 10 steals, including seven by Billy Hamilton.
The Reds have taken the last five season series against the Cubs, including an 11-8 record in 2014.