Leake goes about business, shuts down Arizona

The Reds haven't been scoring much, but with the way Mike Leake pitched on Tuesday three runs were plenty.

Reds blank D-backs

 
JUL 29, 9:58 pm
Todd Frazier weighs in on the 3-0 victory over Arizona.

CINCINNATI -- The milestone number for Mike Leake was 50. For Aroldis Chapman it was 100. They certainly weren't the biggest numbers of the night for the Reds, but for a team that's been hard-pressed for anything positive recently they were welcomed.

Leake earned his 50th career win while Chapman recorded his 100th career save as the Reds won for just the second time in their last 11 games, 3-0 against Arizona Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.

Leake allowed just five hits in 7 2/3 innings scoreless innings. He struck out eight without walking a batter (although he did hit two). Jonathan Broxton got him out of a two-on, two-out situation in the eighth inning by getting the final out before turning things over to Chapman for the ninth inning. Chapman extended his record streak of consecutive appearances with a strike out to 45 by getting former Reds farmhand Didi Gregorius swinging to end the game.

Just as Johnny Cueto did on Saturday in leading the Reds to a 1-0 win against Washington that broke an eight-game losing streak, Leake dominated while on the mound to help end a two-game skid.

"He was sharp," said manager Bryan Price. "I feel there's a certain element to Mike, a competitiveness that when he unleashes it and is on the attack -- attacking the zone, attacking the hitter and pitching aggressively inside which he does comfortably -- there is a fierceness to the kid that makes him better than his stuff, and he's got great stuff.

"Tonight it was on display."

This was Leake's longest outing since going eight innings in consecutive starts against Toronto on June 21 and at San Francisco on June 26. He has failed to complete at least six innings in just four of his 22 starts. It was his first scoreless outing since pitching eight shutout innings at St. Louis on April 9 in a 4-0 win, but Leake hasn't given up more than four runs in any outing this season.

He was better than normal Tuesday as he lowered his season ERA to 3.53. He threw 109 pitches, 75 of which were strikes. He stranded runners at third base on three occasions, including twice with one out. He was at 94 pitches after seven innings but batted for himself in the bottom of the inning and took the mound for the eighth.

"I thought they would send me out. I didn't expect them to take me out," said Leake. "It was a 3-0 lead and (Price) didn't see a need to take me out after the seventh."

Leake has pitched in just two games in the minor leagues since he first joined the Reds in 2010. He earned a spot in the starting rotation during that spring training, a year after being the franchise's top draft pick out of Arizona State. Not many guys get to hone their pitching senses in the big leagues, but Leake has. He said he didn't feel anything special during his pre-game bullpen session, but that's nothing out of the norm for him.

It's part of his maturity at age 26 that allows him to go about his routine routinely.

"You know how you feel but bullpens aren't always a tell-tale sign of how you're going to do in game," said Leake. "Some of the crappiest bullpens you throw and then you come out and you have the best game you've ever thrown. You know how your arm feels but you never know how you're going to do."

The offense around the pitching performances wasn't dynamic but effective as it equaled its highest output since the All-Star break.

Billy Hamilton had been hitless in his previous 15 at-bats before leading off the bottom of the first inning with a double to left field. It was the first time he's reached safely in the first inning of a game since June 11 against Pittsburgh. He scored one out later on Todd Frazier's line drive single to left.

Zack Cozart broke a 0-for-22 hitless streak with an infield single to shortstop in the second inning. He was originally called out by first base umpire Eric Cooper but a replay review overturned Cooper's call and kept the inning alive for Leake. The pitcher who's been known in the past for his ability at the plate was just 5-for-43 this season but he singled off the glove of a diving third baseman Martin Prado to bring in Donald Lutz and make it 2-0.

It was the first time since before the All-Star break the Reds had a lead of more than one run.

Cahill retired 11 Reds in a row at one point, but a single and stolen base by Frazier followed by a two-out single by Brayan Pena in the sixth inning gave the Reds a three-run cushion.

That was plenty on this night.