Joey Votto and the Cincinnati Reds are on a roll that has the team ahead of its pace from 2012, when it earned its most victories since the mid-1970s.
Cincinnati will have to go through surprising former Reds pitcher Travis Wood in order to continue its hot stretch against the visiting Chicago Cubs on Saturday.Votto is hitting .511 with four homers and 10 RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak after going 2 for 4 with a fourth-inning solo homer in Friday's 7-4 win.The 2010 NL MVP is hitting .404 in his last 13 games versus the Cubs.Cincinnati (30-18) has won four straight and 12 of 15 and is three games ahead of the pace of last season's team that went 97-65 to win the NL Central. It marked the most victories for the team since finishing with 102 in 1976, the second of back-to-back World Series winners.The Reds have won five straight versus the Cubs and have outscored them 89-63 while winning 15 of the last 17 meetings. Catcher Ryan Hanigan, Cincinnati's No. 8 hitter, delivered the big blow in a five-run fourth inning Friday with a three-run homer."They went at me and I got a pitch to handle," Hanigan said. "That was a big turn in the game."Chicago (18-29) will look to end a season-worst five-game losing streak with help from Wood (4-2, 2.24 ERA), who spent 2010 and '11 with the Reds.Wood allowed more than two earned runs for only the second time in nine starts Sunday, giving up three -- including a tying two-run homer in his seventh and final inning -- in Chicago's 4-3 loss to the New York Mets.He also hit his fourth career homer, a two-run shot in the fifth that gave the Cubs the lead."Woody pitched another great game," manager Dale Sveum said.The left-hander has made a vast improvement after going 6-13 with a 4.27 ERA in his first season with Chicago in 2012, ranking among the league leaders in ERA and turning in nine quality starts in nine chances."He's not doing anything different than last year, except maybe fine-tuning some things," Sveum told the team's official website. "We know how Travis is -- he's very competitive."The Cubs acquired Wood from Cincinnati in December 2011 for reliever Sean Marshall, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday with a sore left shoulder that has bothered him since spring training.Wood allowed two runs -- including a solo homer to Jay Bruce -- in 6 1/3 innings of Chicago's 5-4, 13-inning loss to the Reds on April 22 and has a 4.42 ERA in three starts versus his former team.Cincinnati will counter with Homer Bailey, who has been stellar in his last two outings.Bailey (2-3, 3.09) threw a complete game and struck out 10 in a 6-2 win over Miami on May 14 before pitching seven scoreless innings in Cincinnati's 3-2 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday."Sometimes you win those, sometimes you lose those," Bailey said after his last start. "I am feeling pretty good still."The right-hander has won four straight decisions against the Cubs, posting a 3.79 ERA in that six-start stretch. He allowed one run and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a 3-1 victory the last time he faced them Sept. 18.