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Wed, Jul 4, 2012 - 9:10 PM ET
 

Reds-Dodgers Preview

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An unexpected source of offense has the injury-riddled Los Angeles Dodgers gaining momentum.

Mike Leake is looking to put a stop to it and continue his own.

Luis Cruz will try to continue providing a spark for the Dodgers and help them win back-to-back games for the first time in almost a month Wednesday night against Leake and the Cincinnati Reds.

Los Angeles (45-37) has won two of three after a slew of injuries contributed to a 4-14 stretch since it last won two straight June 9-10.

The Dodgers are still without star center fielder Matt Kemp (hamstring), right fielder Andre Ethier (oblique), second baseman Mark Ellis (knee), starter Ted Lilly (shoulder) and reliever Javy Guerra (knee). Reliever Todd Coffey (elbow) joined them on the disabled list Tuesday and will undergo Tommy John surgery.

Los Angeles overcame those absences Tuesday, and pulled within one-half game of NL West-leading San Francisco with a 3-1 win over the Reds.

Cruz doubled in the go-ahead run in the seventh and advanced to third before stealing home on the next pitch. He has two RBIs in this series after being recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque, his first stint in the majors since 2010 with Milwaukee.

"When I got to third base, I was excited because I got a hit - and right away (third base coach Tim Wallach) told me: 'Squeeze,'" Cruz said. "When they see a guy going home, they always try to throw it high so that the catcher can just catch it and tag me."

Cruz has a .220 average in 58 games over four seasons with Pittsburgh, the Brewers and the Dodgers. However, he was hitting .318 in the minors.

Leake (3-5, 4.12 ERA) is expected to get the ball for Cincinnati (44-36), and he's 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA in nine starts after going 0-5 with a 7.11 ERA in his first six of the season.

"We're not the kind of group around here that just gives up on a guy because he's struggling," manager Dusty Baker told the team's official website. "He worked at it big time. He made some adjustments. He talked to some quality people. This guy is a very determined young man."

Leake surely looked the part Friday, throwing a nine-hitter in a 5-1 win at San Francisco for his first complete game. The right-hander also contributed with the bat, going 2 for 4 with his second homer of the season.

He's 7 for 17 in the last eight games against NL opponents.

"When you have a guy like that hitting ninth, it changes the lineup," right fielder Jay Bruce said. "You can't just pitch around the eighth guy to get to the ninth guy. Mike is not just an out."

Leake, though, is 1-1 with a 7.04 ERA in three games - two starts - versus Los Angeles.

His mound opponent will be Aaron Harang (5-5, 3.68), who makes his first start against the Reds since leaving them via free agency following 2010. He spent seven-plus seasons in Cincinnati, struggling through the last three with an 18-38 record and 4.71 ERA.

The right-hander revived his career with San Diego last year, going 14-7 with a career-best 3.64 ERA.

Harang hasn't been nearly that effective in his last three starts, going 0-2 with a 5.87 ERA. He struggled again Friday, surrendering five runs and seven hits with four walks in 5 2-3 innings of a 9-0 loss to the New York Mets.

Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick is 14 for 33 (.424) with three homers lifetime against Harang.

Tagged: Reds, Dodgers, Ted Lilly, Aaron Harang, Luis Cruz, Mike Leake

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