CHICAGO -- In his last start, Carlos Villanueva had Chris Rusin to back him up. The Cubs had added the lefty to the roster because the bullpen was overworked after extra-inning games.
On Sunday, Villanueva is on his own as he leads the Cubs in the series finale against the Reds at Wrigley Field. The teams have split the first two games, and the Cubs have a chance at their first series win of the season with a victory on Sunday.
So far, Villanueva's longest outing was five innings on April 6 against the Phillies. He lasted just three innings and gave up nine runs on 10 hits in his last start against the Cardinals on April 12.
"The two innings were tough," Villanueva said of that outing. "Things unraveled quick. I didn't feel bad, I felt I had the stuff. They're a good team, and they took advantage of our mistakes, and they got me out of there quick."
He can only hope the Cubs pick up where they left off on Saturday. Mike Olt, Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo each homered for Chicago in an 8-4 win. However, Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton showed what a threat he can be, posting a three-hit game and stealing a base. He now has swiped a bag in three straight games.
"[Joey] Votto hitting behind Hamilton is definitely an interesting dynamic, because [Votto] is going to jump on that early fastball, knowing that pitchers are going to want to throw it in that situation," Barney said.
The Cubs have struggled to score runs. The starting pitching has done well, but the offense hasn't delivered, which was a trend last season. Villanueva said it's not the same this year.
"You can't compare," he said. "Last year was last year -- there's different personel, different guys. We don't have a negative mindset, and thinking about last year puts negative thoughts in people's heads."
Olt is hoping the good approaches at the plate on Saturday pay off.
"It only takes one game or one at-bat to really get a team going," Olt said. "Hopefully, we can come in [Sunday] and stay focused and start where we left off."
The Cubs and Olt will have to do it against Homer Bailey. Cincinnati has won Bailey's last nine starts against the Cubs, and he is 6-0 in that stretch. He has not pitched past the fifth inning yet this year, though. In his first outing, he left after 4 1/3 and gave up four runs. On April 8 against the Cardinals and Tuesday against the Pirates, he pitched five innings, but gave up four and five runs, respectively.
Reds: Excited for Marshall's return
The Reds have six players on the disabled list, but they finally got some good news with the return of left-handed reliever Sean Marshall.
"A lot of guys are on the mend, they're on their way back," Marshall said. "I think [Mat] Latos had his hiccup with his elbow, so that set him back a couple weeks. But once we get him healthy, too, we'll have the full pitching staff intact, we'll get Skip [Schumaker] back, and we'll be back in full force."
Cincinnati manager Bryan Price was certainly happy to have Marshall back.
"It's not just having two lefties [in the bullpen], it's having Sean Marshall back," Price said. "He's really good."
Marshall had been sidelined by a sore left shoulder.
Cubs: Rizzo expects to play Sunday
First baseman Anthony Rizzo was lifted from the game in the eighth inning on Saturday as a precautionary measure because of back spasms. Rizzo said he had some discomfort on Friday, and felt something when he reached for a high pickoff throw. Manager Rick Renteria said they'll wait and see how Rizzo responds to treatment before deciding whether the first baseman will start Sunday.
• In his career, Bailey is 7-2 with a 4.48 ERA in 13 starts against Chicago, and he's 4-1 at Wrigley Field.
• Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta, slowed this spring by tightness in his right shoulder, will make a rehab start on Monday for Class A Daytona, and he hopes that is his last tuneup before he's ready to rejoin the Cubs.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.