Right-hander Javier Assad has established himself as one of the most reliable arms on the Chicago Cubs' pitching staff.
The 26-year-old rookie will look to continue a two-month stretch of dominance on Saturday when Chicago faces the host Cincinnati Reds in the third contest of a four-game series.
Since June 27, Assad (3-2, 2.96 ERA) has been lights out, going 3-0 with a 1.58 ERA over his past 14 appearances, including five starts. He most recently allowed one run on three hits while walking two and striking out seven across seven innings to earn a win against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
Assad is 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in four career appearances (two starts) against Cincinnati. His two outings vs. the Reds this year both came in relief, and he had logged no decisions while allowing two runs in a total of 7 1/3 innings.
That hot streak has allowed the Cubs to pull within 3 1/2 games of the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the division. Chicago is also two games ahead of the Giants and the Diamondbacks for the second NL wild-card spot. Cincinnati (70-67) is one game behind San Francisco and Arizona in that chase.
"We definitely have our eyes set on the (division)," said Cubs left-hander Jordan Wicks, who earned the win in the opener of the Friday twin bill. "I think it's awesome. We show up on the field every day, and the only thing we worry about is winning games. We have a great group."
Left-hander Andrew Abbott (8-4, 3.35 ERA) will try to slow down Chicago on Saturday when he makes his 17th start of the season.
In his most recent outing, Abbott matched his season low by lasting just 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits against the Giants on Monday. He walked three and struck out six.
Abbott, a rookie, has failed to work at least six innings in each of his past six starts. He is 2-2 with a 6.67 ERA during that span.
"I still think the experience is coming," Abbott said. "I know I'm in a lull right now, but it's just about coming to the field ready to go, being there for the team and sticking true to my routine and what I can do, knowing that when I get those kind of changes figured out, then I'm going to be right back ready to roll."
In his only career start against the Cubs, Abbott allowed four runs on five hits in 3 1/3 innings and escaped with a no-decision on July 31.
The Cubs are hoping to receive a boost down the stretch from outfielder Alexander Canario, who was recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Friday. He was the No. 14 prospect in the organization, according to MLB Pipeline.
In 36 games at Iowa, Canario hit .276 with eight homers and 35 RBIs.
"I'm super happy, super excited. I thank God for the opportunity," Canario said through an interpreter. "Whatever the team needs, I'll be there."
—Field Level Media