CHICAGO – With the season lost and the team slumping, the Cubs have to look ahead to happier times. Travis Wood continues to show he might part of their turnaround.
Ryan Ludwick hit a two-run double in the eighth, and the Cincinnati Reds rallied for a 4-2 win over the Cubs on Saturday. After Drew Stubbs doubled and Brandon Phillips singled off Cubs reliever James Russell (5-1), Ludwick looped a pitch down the left-field line and into the corner.
Wood held Cincinnati to five hits and matched a career-high with eight strikeouts, but he did not figure in the decision despite leaving with a 2-1 lead.
"The command of both sides was incredible," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "The cutter in, the backdoor cutter and his four-seamer.
"He actually got a few pitches at 94 mph today. I'm sure a little bit of that was he was pretty pumped up to face his old team. Going into that lineup throwing hardly any change-ups or curveballs was very impressive."
Wood posted an 8.78 ERA in losing his previous five starts, but has now held three straight opponents to two runs or less.
"Most of his appearances, he's had a couple of tough ones here when the wind was blowing out, but other than that he's pitched pretty darned good since he's been back up here," Sveum said.
The comeback made a winner of Bronson Arroyo (8-7), who held the Cubs to two runs and five hits over eight innings. Arroyo gave up both runs early but settled down to improve to 5-0 in his last seven starts at Wrigley Field.
"That's one of the most gratifying wins I've had in a long time," Arroyo said.
Reds closer Aroldis Chapman continued his recent dominance by setting down three straight in the ninth and converting his 27th save, including his last 19 straight. Because of the midafternoon start time, the hitters had to deal with shadows in addition to Chapman's 100-plus mph stuff.
"Shadows or not, to catch up with 102 mph is probably the hardest things in sports to do," Sveum said. "It's tough enough to hit a baseball, but when it comes in at 102, it's close to impossible."
Since Chapman last blew a save June 24, he's thrown 20 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out 44.
"Unbelievable," Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro said. "This guy's awesome. He threw a change-up at like 94, and a slider at 91. It's a fastball for other pitchers. You've got to swing because you want to be out front, or you'll be late every time."
David DeJesus provided the offense for the Cubs, stroking a two-out, two-run single off Arroyo in the second inning.
Russell allowed three runs and five hits in the eighth, and the Cubs lost for the 10th time in 11 games.
"I wasn't too down on myself," Russell said. "I'm kind of [mad] that it ended up that way, but I executed some good pitches. Sometimes good pitches get hit and they find holes."
Despite his recent struggles, Wood was sharp in his first appearance against his former team. He was dealt to the Cubs during the offseason for left-hander Sean Marshall after going 11-10 over two seasons with Cincinnati.
The only run against Wood came in the fourth when Phillips doubled into the left-field corner with one out. Todd Frazier drove him in with a single, cutting the Cubs' lead to one run. Wood stranded the potential tying run on third by striking out Chris Heisey and getting Wilson Valdez on a fielder's choice.
"As a whole, I've progressed," Wood said. "I've had some good games and some bad games. That's baseball. The bad games, you've got to learn from it and try to do everything out there to try to help the team win."
NOTES: The Cubs activated right-hander Lendy Castillo from the disabled list and optioned left-hander Scott Maine to Triple-A Iowa. ... The Cubs promoted Tim Wilken to a role as a special assistant to general manager Jed Hoyer and team president Theo Epstein. Jaron Madison was hired from the San Diego organization to take Wilken's place as director of amateur scouting. ... First baseman Joey Votto returned to Cincinnati to have cartilage removed from his surgically repaired left knee. Manager Dusty Baker said Votto felt soreness in his knee after participating in a sliding drill. The 2010 NL MVP was injured while sliding into third base on July 17. ... Baker said slumping outfielder Jay Bruce will be back in the lineup Sunday. Bruce is 1 for his last 16 with seven strikeouts.