The Cubs look to salvage a win over the Reds after being swept for the third time this season in a doubleheader on Tuesday, capped by a blown five-run lead in the 6-5 finale loss.
Dallas Beeler takes the mound for the Cubs in just his second big league start amid a midseason identity shift in the Chicago rotation in the wake of last week's trade that sent top starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland.
Along with Tsuyoshi Wada, who earned his first start Tuesday, and Kyle Hendricks, who debuts Thursday, Beeler is one of three Cubs starters that will have pitched his first big league game in the span of 12 days.
"It's always a challenge when you lose good guys like Samardzija and Hammel," said pitcher Travis Wood, a fifth-year veteran who has spent the last three seasons in Chicago after arriving via trade from the Reds. "As a staff, we have to step it up. We have a couple young guys coming up. Hopefully, they can provide a spark."
Beeler, 25, allowed just one unearned run on four hits in his six-inning debut versus the Nationals on June 28, but was credited with the loss after the Cubs' mustered just two hits against Washington ace Gio Gonzalez in the 3-0 loss -- one of two the Cubs took in what was their last doubleheader defeat before Tuesday.
From the opposing dugout, the Reds will send veteran Alfredo Simon (11-3, 2.78 ERA) to the hill for his 18th start of the season. Current Cubs batters have hit .367 with eight RBIs in 31 at-bats over the last five years off Simon, yet in his three starts against the Cubs in 2014, Simon is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA.
Simon allowed two runs on six hits while walking two and fanning three over 7 1/3 innings during his last start on Friday -- a 4-2 Reds win over the Brewers. Simon cited his ability to keep the ball in the lower strike zone as the root of his success versus Milwaukee.
"Sometimes when I get the ball up, that's when I get hit, but when my two-seamer works, I get a lot of ground balls," said Simon, whose 11 wins trail only Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka's 12 for the MLB lead.
The Reds head into game four of the five-game slate looking to flex their control of the Cubs, who are 3-8 against Cincinnati in '14, 8-22 over the last two years and 12-34 since 2012. Chicago is 15-27 against NL Central teams thus far this season. Cincinnati has won four straight, five of its last six and 13 of its last 18 overall.
Cubs: Coghlan comfortable at leadoff
Outfielder Chris Coghlan seems to have replenished the void at leadoff that the Cubs have been foraging for since Emilio Bonifacio sustained a right oblique strain on June 13.
Coghlan is hitting just .230 (12-for-52) from the top spot this season, but has been the team's best bat during their lengthy road trip. In the Cubs' nine games away from Wrigley since June 28, Coghlan has hit .451 (14-for-31), and pelted a pair of home runs in Tuesday's twinbill.
"I just embrace and enjoy the opportunity to set the tone," Coghlan said. "There's pluses and minuses wherever you hit in the lineup. I enjoy wherever they put me and fortunately I've been able to help the team."
Coghlan, who hits left-handed, batted seventh in Tuesday's finale to counterbalance Reds southpaw starter David Holmberg and launched his second homer of the day in the 6-5 loss.
Reds: Reds hope to hold strong homestand
The Reds are 5-1 in their current homestand -- a season-high 11 games, all against NL Central opponents -- as they head into Wednesday's contest with the Cubs.
Cincinnati's 24-19 record at Great American Ball Park is tied for last among the division with the exception of the Cubs' 19-20 post at Wrigley Field.
The Reds trimmed their gap to 3 1/2 games from first place in the NL Central with Tuesday's sweep coinciding with the Brewers' 9-7 loss to the Phillies.
•The Cubs are just one of three National League teams that hasn't had a pitcher throw a complete game, along with the Pirates and Rockies. Cubs starters have tallied 46 quality starts this season, yet have registered only 21 individual wins in those games with 17 no-decisions and eight losses.
•The Reds are 9-0-1 in NL Central series after Tuesday's sweep.
Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.