CINCINNATI - It's been about managing expectations this season for the Chicago Cubs. After a historic start, manager Joe Maddon's club has stumbled a bit, losing six of 11.
But in a run of fortune the ever-optimistic Maddon can appreciate, the rest of the crowd of National League Central contenders is sliding at precisely the same time.
"When you stub your toe, it's good that everybody else is stubbing their toe at the same time," Maddon said. "It's a long year, man."
The Cubs (50-26) conclude a three-game series in Cincinnati on Wednesday afternoon. They then will travel to New York to face the Mets, who emphatically ended their dreams of a World Series appearance in last year's NLCS.
Maddon has kept his club on even-footing for much of this season. The key for any manager, he says, is maintaining a consistent approach himself.
Anytime a group sees their leader walk in the same regardless of the circumstances, it lends itself to stability," he says.
Following Tuesday night's eventful 7-2, 15-inning win over the Reds, the Cubs lead the second-place St. Louis Cardinals by 10 games in the Central.
Kyle Hendricks takes the mound for the Cubs in Wednesday's series finale.
He's coming off a most unusual outing on Friday at Miami when he allowed just one hit through five innings, but that hit was a grand slam.
According to Elias, Hendricks was the only pitcher since 1900 to complete at least five innings while allowing a grand slam as his only hit.
Hendricks is 1-1 with a 4.34 ERA in five career starts against the Reds.
He'll be in familiar territory on Wednesday. Hendricks made his major league debut at Great American Ball Park in 2014.
Cincinnati (29-49) will counter with rookie left-hander Cody Reed who'll be making his third career start since debuting on June 18 at Houston. Reed who was acquired last July from the Kansas City Royals in the Johnny Cueto trade, is among the key elements of the Reds' rebuilding project.
Reed will be making his second start in front of the home crowd on Wednesday. He admitted to being a little nervous first time around on June 24.
"I threw a lot of pitches and I wasn't getting ahead in the count," said Reed, who also balked in a run. "Maybe it was nerves. Usually, my slider works off my fastball, but I didn't have that good command. It was just an off night."
The Cubs have had a few of those lately. But, with their fourth straight series win over Cincinnati assured, they're looking to build some momentum after losing six of seven coming in.
"That's why you can't get too frustrated when things don't go your way," Maddon said. "For anyone to expect things to always go your way, is totally unrealistic. We talked in spring training about getting off to a good start so that when you do have a hard time, you have something to absorb that moment. It's always more difficult to catch somebody. So, I'm pleased with where we're at."