Cubs-Reds Preview

Last week in Chicago, Cincinnati’s Mike Leake was one out away
from completing a one-hitter and his first career shutout when it
all suddenly fell apart.

At least he doesn’t have to wait until next season for a chance
at redemption.

Likely making his final start of the year, Leake looks to exact
some revenge Tuesday night against the same Cubs team that spoiled
his gem.

At Wrigley Field last Tuesday, Leake had allowed only three
baserunners – including one hit on Alfonso Soriano’s second-inning
single – when Starlin Castro came up with two outs in the ninth and
the Reds leading 2-0.

Castro gave the Cubs life with an infield single and
pinch-hitter Bryan LaHair followed with a game-tying home run.
Leake got Aramis Ramirez to fly out, and walked to the dugout
having thrown a career-high nine innings with nothing to show for
it, although Cincinnati (71-76) won 4-2 in 13 innings.

“You hate to get two outs and it be the last at-bat. It got to
me,” Leake told the Reds’ official website. “I’m glad we came back,
or else I would have been wearing it even more.”

It likely would have left an even worse taste in his mouth had
that been his last start of the year.

Prior to the game, Dusty Baker said he wasn’t sure if Leake
would make another start. A day after watching the
near-masterpiece, the manager decided he didn’t want his
23-year-old right-hander’s season to end like that.

Leake has thrown 167 innings between the Reds and Triple-A
Louisville this season after throwing 138 1-3 last year as a
rookie.

Although Cincinnati is concerned with his health for the future,
Leake has looked strong lately. In 10 starts since the All-Star
break, he has a 3.60 ERA while going at least six innings in each.
He was extremely efficient against Chicago, needing only 65 pitches
to get through seven innings and finishing with 91.

Leake has always pitched well against the Cubs, going 3-1 with a
2.95 ERA in six outings – all quality starts. He has shut down some
of their top hitters, limiting Ramirez, Soriano and Geovany Soto to
a combined four hits in 37 at-bats.

Those three all contributed in Chicago’s 12-8 win in Monday’s
series opener. Ramirez had three hits – including a double and his
25th homer – Soriano went 2 for 5 with three RBIs and Soto drove in
two. Castro also homered, scored four runs and drove in three while
extending his career-high hitting streak to 13 games.

The Cubs (65-82) have won three in a row and six of eight, while
the Reds have lost three in a row and 10 of 14.

Brandon Phillips hit two homers Monday after failing to go deep
in his previous 20 games, but could have trouble against scheduled
starter Ryan Dempster (10-11, 4.74), against whom he is batting
.182 (6 for 33) lifetime.

Dempster gave up three runs and 10 hits in six-plus innings of
Wednesday’s 6-3 win over the Reds, but didn’t get a decision. The
right-hander is 0-3 with a 5.64 ERA in his last four starts after
going 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA in the previous four.

He is 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA in four starts against the Reds this
season.