Willis takes another crack at win No. 1 against Cubs

Now four games under .500, a strong showing on their final homestand of the season could help the Cincinnati Reds finish the season on a high note.

Dontrelle Willis aims to kick off the extended stay at home with his first victory of the season in a the opener of a four-game series versus the Chicago Cubs.

Despite getting Joey Votto's 28th home run of the season, the Reds dropped a 4-1 decision to the Rockies on Sunday to end their road trip with a 4-5 mark. Edinson Volquez took the loss, giving up two runs over five innings of work.

"He had good tempo and threw the ball better," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Volquez. "He had a few walks, but we just didn't have a bunch of offense."

The Reds play their next 10 at Great American Ball Park and hand the ball to Willis for the opener.

Still looking for his first win since June 5 of last year, the left-hander is coming off a rough outing to the Cubs on Monday. Willis began the game by retiring the first nine batters faced, but eventually gave up four runs on six hits and five walks over seven innings.

"I like the way I'm pitching but it just takes one inning of one outing," Willis said of losing in his 200th career start. "You have to stay strong, stay positive and keep throwing the way I know I can for this ballclub."

The 29-year-old also struck out eight, but is 0-5 with a 4.21 earned run average on the season. The loss also evened his career record against the Cubs to 4-4 with a 4.35 ERA.

The Cubs have won five of their last seven games and outlasted the Mets, 10-6, on Sunday night in a game that was preempted by a remembrance ceremony for those lost in the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

Carlos Pena knocked in the go-ahead run in the 11th inning and Chicago scored five more times in the frame.

Pena and Darwin Barney each had three hits and two RBI, Tyler Colvin drove in three and Bryan LaHair scored four runs for the Cubs.

"I think at this point, we don't do things the easy way, that's for sure," manager Mike Quade told the Cubs' website. "We kept playing, we kept battling."

Rodrigo Lopez will face the Reds for a second straight outing and is 4-6 with a 4.82 ERA in 23 games this year, including 13 starts.

The 35-year-old righty had lost three straight starts before getting a no- decision against the Reds on Tuesday. He gave up two runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings in a game the Cubs lost, 4-2, in 13 innings.

Lopez did keep his perfect record versus the Reds intact as he is 2-0 with a 4.37 ERA in eight lifetime appearances against them.

Though the Cubs have won five of their last seven over the Reds, Cincinnati still leads the season series, 8-6.