Monday's game will feature two pitchers whose names appear near each other among the league leaders in several categories, but whose fortunes really could not be more opposite as April draws to a close.
On the Reds' side, there's Alfredo Simon, who ranks among the National League leaders with a 1.30 ERA and a .172 opponents' batting average. All four of his outings this year have been quality starts, and so far, he has proven to be a more than adequate fill-in for Mat Latos. Not bad for a guy who had 99 relief appearances between his final start in 2011 and his first of 2014. In fact, Simon could finish April with four wins in five tries.
On the Cubs end, there's Jeff Samardzija, the established staff ace who has capably pitched to a 1.53 ERA. He's leading the team with 35 1/3 innings pitched and is second on the club with 27 strikeouts. Batters are hitting .233 against him.
Yet Samardzija enters his start in Cincinnati on Monday with no wins. He's started five games, has not received a decision in three of them and took the other two for losses.
This trend dates back to last Aug. 24, the last time Samardzija earned a win. Since then, he has made 11 starts and hasn't won any of them.
But he's pitching well, and presumably, the law of averages should catch up to him, no?
"He's pitching really good and should have a couple wins already," catcher Welington Castillo said. "We're not hitting really good and not getting a lot of runners and not scoring a lot of runs. I think he's doing all that he can control. He goes to the mound and does his job and focuses on what he can control."
The Reds, conversely, have given Simon plenty of run support -- although he's more than held his own, stringing together a recent 12-inning scoreless streak.
"I had him a few years back when he was starting in winter ball in the Dominican," catcher Brayan Pena said. "He told me, 'I feel like I'm going to be a good big league starter.' Right now, he's doing that and doing pretty good."
Cubs: On the road again -- and again.
Not only are the Cubs in a trying stretch, during which they'll play 30 games in 31 days through May 18, but beginning with their weekend series in Milwaukee, most of those games are being played on the road. Twelve of 17 of those games through May 15 will be played away from the Friendly Confines, which, on paper, may benefit the pitchers more than the hitters.
Entering Monday's game, the Cubs are hitting .209 on the road, 42 points lower than their .251 home average. But their ERA is better away from Wrigley -- 3.55, as compared to 4.00 at home.
Reds: Lineup shuffle aftermath
From April 13 -- the day after Joey Votto moved to the second spot in the batting order -- through play on Saturday, the Reds compiled an 8-5 record, and over that span, ranked among the Major League leaders in batting average, runs scored, doubles and on-base percentage. In 11 games prior to that to start the season, the Reds scored 28 runs, averaging 2.5 runs per game, and were 3-8.
• Cubs second baseman Emilio Bonifacio has recorded nine stolen bases this season, tied for third in the Majors and tied for the third-most steals in March/April in franchise history.
• Jake Arrieta, who made his fifth Minor League rehab start on Saturday, will join the Cubs in Cincinnati on Monday. When the right-hander returns to the rotation is still to be determined. Arrieta was slowed during Spring Training with tightness in his right shoulder.
• The Reds have lost 10 games this year by one run.
• Reds lefty Aroldis Chapman threw his second live batting practice/simulated game on Saturday without a protective screen and is tentatively scheduled to throw another simulated game Tuesday at Great American Ball Park.