The Cincinnati Reds won't be a playoff team this year, which might be most perplexing to those who often see them play at Wrigley Field.
They begin the final two weeks of the season with their last trip to one of their favorite ballparks Monday night in the opener of a three-game series with the struggling Chicago Cubs.
The Reds (71-79), winners of 19 of 22 at Wrigley since Aug. 10, 2012, continue a nine-game trip against NL Central opponents after dropping two of three in Milwaukee to kick things off.
Sunday's 9-2 loss included more bullpen struggles with six earned runs allowed in two innings. Over 12 games, Cincinnati's relievers have a 5.92 ERA, though they might not need to be used much if Alfredo Simon can continue his dominance of Chicago (65-84).
Simon's four starts against the Cubs have produced a 3-0 record and 1.40 ERA while he's surrendered just one earned run in 13 innings at Wrigley.
Simon (14-10, 3.48 ERA) won for just the second time in 11 starts in Wednesday's 4-2 victory over St. Louis. The right-hander allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings after getting roughed up in his previous start.
"Every time I go out, I just try to fight to get the win," Simon told MLB's official website. "In the first inning, I just tried to keep fighting, keep fighting. Everything worked today. I got some run support today. I'm really happy I got the win. I'm proud of myself."
He'll now try for his first road win since June 18, a seven-start drought. His last five have resulted in a 0-4 record and 5.93 ERA.
Travis Wood gets the ball for Chicago following an extra day of rest to avoid facing Pittsburgh again after his worst start of the season in a 10-4 loss to the Pirates on Sept. 7. Wood (8-12, 5.03) lasted just 1 2-3 innings and allowed seven runs and nine hits, three of which left the yard.
"I think it's been a little bit of hit and miss," said manager Rick Renteria of the left-hander's year. "I think Travis is a much better pitcher than he's probably shown, and I think he'd be the first one to tell you that."
He's 1-3 with a 6.08 ERA in his last five starts, though the only strong outing in that time came against Cincinnati, his former team.
Wood held the Reds to two hits in a 3-0 victory Aug. 26 to improve to 2-1 with a 1.47 ERA in his last three matchups against them. Wood has held Zack Cozart to three hits in 23 at-bats with 10 strikeouts, while Jay Bruce is 5 for 21 with three home runs.
The Cubs begin a 10-game homestand with rookie right fielder Jorge Soler expected to be back after missing three games due to the birth of his first child. Soler is batting .356 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 12 games, including a 4-for-8 mark with a home run in two against Cincinnati.
They could have used him in Sunday's 7-3 loss in Pittsburgh, their eighth defeat in nine games.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo's status is less certain due to a lower-back strain that has kept him out since Aug. 26.