CINCINNATI — Rookie Randy Wells took a shutout into the eighth inning Monday night and Mike Fontenot hit a three-run homer off struggling Aaron Harang to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 4-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
After stumbling through the first half of the season, the Cubs have gone 20-10 since July 1 to pull into the thick of the NL Central race. They are 13-5 since the All-Star break — the best mark in the majors — including a 4-0 record against the Reds.
Wells (8-4) has been a big part of the turnaround. The 26-year-old was called up on May 8 and has been one of the league's top newcomers. He allowed six hits, including Alex Gonzalez's solo homer, over 71⁄3 innings while getting his fourth straight victory.
Fontenot homered in the second inning off Harang (5-13), who leads the majors in losses. Harang hasn't won since May 25, going 0-9 in his past 13 starts. It's the deepest slump of his career and the longest losing streak by a Reds pitcher since Danny Graves lost 10 straight over the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
Heading into the series, Cubs Manager Lou Piniella had a concern about closer Kevin Gregg, who blew both of his save chances in Florida over the weekend and reported that his pitching arm felt tired. Piniella wanted to give him a couple of days off to recharge.
Carlos Marmol gave up a run-scoring double by Gonzalez in the ninth inning before retiring Willy Taveras on a grounder, earning his fourth save in eight chances.
While the Cubs have made a U-turn at mid-season, the Reds have gone the other way. They have dropped 13 of 14 and 19 of 23.
The Cubs know they're in good shape when their run total reaches three. The Cubs are 53-15 when scoring at least three runs, the best mark in the majors. They reached the dividing mark on one swing.
Fontenot homered for a 3-0 lead in the second. Fontenot had been in a 5-for-36 slump and hadn't homered since the last time he faced Harang, on July 24.
■ Cubs 3B Aramis Ramirez, who was hit on the left forearm Saturday and sat out the next game, was back in the starting lineup and went 0-for-3, ending his nine-game hitting streak.
■ Gonzalez was out of the Reds' starting lineup. The shortstop was in an 0-for-20 slump when he homered in the eighth.
■ The Reds' Scott Rolen had a headache and was out of the Reds lineup Monday, a day after he was hit in the head by a pitch from Jason Marquis.