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First-Place Reds Host Cubs; Gorzelanny On Mound Against Cueto

(Sports Network) - The Cincinnati Reds hope a return home and a matchup with the Chicago Cubs will enable them to maintain their growing lead atop the National League Central. The two divisional foes start up a three-game series tonight at Great American Ball Park, where the Cubs will attempt to remain unbeaten under interim manager Mike Quade.

Cincinnati just completed a nine-game road trip and went 6-3 on the trek, while ending the West Coast swing with a thrilling victory over the San Francisco Giants. Joey Votto homered twice and drove in the winning run in the top of the 12th inning as the Reds came through with a wild 12-11 win to salvage the finale of a three-game set.

The Reds coughed up a nine-run lead and had to score in the ninth to force extra innings before coming out on top on Votto's fourth hit of the game, a single that plated Miguel Cairo with the deciding run in the 12th.

Votto finished with four runs batted in and Paul Janish went 3-for-5 with an RBI for Cincinnati, which presently holds a four-game advantage on St. Louis for first place in the Central. Jonny Gomes and Ryan Hanigan added solo homers in the victory, with Gomes contributing an RBI single later on.

"We're very happy with six wins in nine games," said Votto about the road trip. "That is very good, especially on the West Coast. We've got to go back home and play solid baseball. We can't just be satisfied with this win, we have to continue to push forward."

The Reds may be able to do just that, if their performance against the Cubs this season is any indication. Cincinnati has won 10 of 13 meetings between these clubs so far in 2010, including four of six matchups held in the Queen City.

Chicago has been no pushover as of late, however. The Cubs come into tonight's showdown off a three-game sweep of Washington to begin their present road trip, the team's first since Quade replaced the retiring Lou Piniella behind the bench following a home loss to Atlanta on Sunday.

The Cubs received a gem out of Ryan Dempster in Wednesday's finale with the Nationals, with the veteran righty firing seven shutout innings to lead the way in a 4-0 triumph.

Dempster (12-8) yielded just two singles and a walk while striking out eight batters to notch his fourth straight win. He nearly was left with a no- decision, however, as the Cubs didn't score until putting up a three-spot in the top of the eighth.

Starlin Castro broke the scoreless deadlock with an RBI double with one out in the eighth. Two batters later, Aramis Ramirez belted a two-run homer to extend the margin to 3-0.

Tom Gorzelanny will try to keep Chicago rolling when he takes the ball for the opener. The left-hander put forth and excellent start of his own last time out, limiting Atlanta to one run and striking out nine Braves over seven innings to best the NL East leaders last Saturday.

The 28-year-old will be aiming to avenge a loss to the Reds in Chicago earlier this month, a 3-0 verdict on August 6 in which he allowed all three runs and four hits over seven innings of work.

For his career, Gorzelanny is 3-4 with a 4.74 ERA in nine starts versus Cincinnati.

Johnny Cueto gets the call for the Reds tonight and makes his second start since serving a seven-game suspension for his role in a benches-clearing incident against the Cardinals on August 10. The right-hander wasn't sharp at all in his return to the mound, as he served up four homers and five runs total in just three innings in losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers this past Saturday.

The native Dominican has still had a very good season for the Reds, having amassed an 11-4 record and a 3.62 ERA in 24 starts. In 11 trips to the Great American Ball Park mound in 2010, Cueto is 5-2 with a 4.12 ERA.

Cueto is just 2-5 with a 4.17 ERA over nine starts against Chicago, but did throw five shutout innings in a no-decision at Wrigley Field on July 3.