Cincinnati (71-67) rallied after going scoreless in eight innings against Chicago starter Javier Assad on Saturday, scratching out a pair of ninth-inning runs off of Mark Leiter Jr. for a 2-1 win.
"These young guys right here have a ton of heart. Showed the last two games what we're made of," Hunter Renfroe, who legged out a walk-off fielder's choice on Saturday, told Bally Sports Cincinnati in a postgame interview.
Renfroe was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday, while the Reds also added Harrison Bader off waivers from the New York Yankees. Both played key roles on Saturday, with Bader stealing third as a pinch runner in the ninth.
The Reds also won the second game of Friday's doubleheader, 3-2, thanks to late-game heroics. Cincinnati scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth, capped by Noelvi Marte's two-out, game-winning single.
"We pitched well both games. Giving up three and two (runs) and coming away with losses is tough," Cubs manager David Ross said. "We swung the bats really well coming into the series, (but it) didn't pan out (Friday) or (Saturday)."
The consecutive losses cost Chicago ground in its pursuit of division-leading Milwaukee, which moved to 4 1/2 games ahead of the Cubs with wins over Philadelphia on Friday and Saturday. Cincinnati is 6 1/2 games behind Milwaukee heading into Sunday.
Carson Spiers makes his major league debut and gets the start for Cincinnati in pursuit of the series win. The 25-year-old right-hander was called up from Double-A Chattanooga this week as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak among the Reds' pitching staff.
Originally scheduled Sunday starter Brandon Williamson landed on the seven-day COVID injured list with starters Hunter Greene and Ben Lively, as well as reliever Fernando Cruz, per the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Spiers was 8-3 with a 3.69 ERA and 106 strikeouts over 83 innings this season for Chattanooga.
Jameson Taillon (7-9, 5.62 ERA) makes the start for Chicago (72-64) looking to score his first win since Aug. 8.
Taillon has a no-decision and three losses in his last four starts, the most recent of which came in his last appearance on Monday against Milwaukee. The right-hander gave up five runs (four earned) and nine hits over six innings against the Brewers.
Taillon's win over the New York Mets on Aug. 8 was the last time he pitched more than six innings, going seven in a 3-2 Cubs win. That performance came amid a series loss — the last time Chicago came out of a series with any worse than the split.
Though Taillon has struggled in recent weeks, he scored the win in his last appearance against Cincinnati on Aug. 3 in Chicago. His five-strikeout effort over five innings improved him to 5-5 with a 4.57 ERA in 15 career starts against the Reds.
Taillon is 1-0 in two starts against Cincinnati this season. He struck out five over 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision in Chicago on May 27 when he allowed four runs and six hits.
—Field Level Media