CHICAGO - The Chicago Cubs will return home after a one-day road trip that may leave them weary after a long but satisfying win.
The Cubs, who were forced to travel to Washington to face the Nationals after a weekend washout, will enter Friday's series opener against the Cincinnati Reds on a winning note after a 10-inning, 4-3 victory.
After seeing their lead shrink to one game by losing two of three to the second-place Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs will face the Reds with a 1 1/2-game lead in the National League Central. And as much as the Cubs dreaded losing an off-day Thursday for the sake of a make-up game, manager Joe Maddon won't use the current stretch of 30 consecutive days without an off-day as an excuse.
"It's just a tough stretch, man," Maddon said this weekend, according to NBC Sports Chicago. "Fatigue is nasty. When you get a tired mind, it's not easy to play at your top level. It's just not. We all know what it's like when you feel like your brain is swimming a little bit."
The Cubs' victory Thursday provided a bit of breathing room after they entered Thursday's game having lost four of their previous five games. Despite needing extra innings to get back on a winning track, the Cubs realize even facing the last-place Reds won't be easy as they try to hold on to their lead in the National League Central.
Because of Thursday's trip to Washington, the start time of Friday's game was pushed back from 1:20 p.m. CT to 7:05 p.m.
Cole Hamels will take the mound for the Cubs, looking to extend what's been an impressive start to his stint with the Cubs. Hamels (9-9, 3.71 ERA) has not lost since joining the Cubs and is coming off back-to-back no-decisions after racking up a 4-0 record in August. Hamels has dominated the Reds throughout his career with an 11-1 record and a 1.86 ERA in 16 career starts against Cincinnati.
In his one start against the Reds this season, Hamels got a complete-game victory, allowing eight hits and two walks but one run in Chicago's 7-1 victory Aug. 23.
The Reds will enter the series having won four of their past six games. Cincinnati took two of three against the Los Angeles Dodgers this week but failed to finish off the sweep, taking an 8-1 loss Wednesday before having Thursday off.
Matt Harvey will start the series for the Reds after sticking with Cincinnati despite clearing waivers. Harvey (7-8, 4.87) has only one win in his last four starts, but that win came in his last outing -- a victory against the San Diego Padres in which he surrendered two runs and four hits over six innings.
In that game, Harvey struck out 10, which was his first double-digit strikeout effort in more than two years. Now, he will look to continue to roll against the Cubs on Friday.
"It was just one of those days when everything was coming out pretty good," Harvey said after the outing, according to Cincinnati.com. "I pretty much let the pitches work."
Harvey is 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA in seven career starts against Chicago. He has started three games against the Cubs this year and is 1-0 with a 2.65 ERA.