Astros-Reds Preview

With Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey due back soon, Mike Leake’s

spot in the Cincinnati Reds’ rotation could be at risk.

If he extends his recent hot streak, though, he might not have

much to worry about.

Leake seeks a fourth consecutive win as the Reds look to

continue their recent home success against the Houston Astros on

Tuesday night, a day after Monday’s series opener was rained

out.

Cincinnati (14-14) won its first five home games this season –

two over the Astros – but dropped to 8-8 at Great American Ball

Park home with a 9-5 loss to Florida on Sunday.

Reds starters, who have one of the worst ERAs in the majors at

5.28, have gone 9-1 with a 2.86 ERA during a 13-3 home stretch

against Houston. The club has also thrived offensively during that

span, outscoring the Astros 98-44.

Cincinnati, which ranks at or near the top of the NL with 147

runs scored and 35 homers, was held to a season-low two hits during

Leake’s latest start, a 3-2 loss at Milwaukee last Tuesday. The

right-hander (3-0, 4.40) allowed two runs and seven hits over seven

innings.

Leake, accused of shoplifting at a department store April 18,

had the charge reduced to unauthorized use of property Friday.

“He pitched better, actually (since the incident),” manager

Dusty Baker said. “That’s something he wanted to prove to us.

Hopefully, he’ll have some closure now.”

Leake, 2-1 with a 2.49 ERA in four starts against Houston, has

gone 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA in his last three outings. Another solid

performance could make it tough to take him out of the rotation

when Cueto and Bailey return from rehabbing injuries.

Bailey is expected to pitch Thursday afternoon, when these teams

will make up Monday’s rainout.

“We’ve got a plan,” Baker told the Reds’ official website about

the three pitchers. “We don’t necessarily want to say or don’t

necessarily want them to know yet. We don’t want them to get ahead

of themselves. We want them to go out and pitch and do the best

they can to win and go as far as they can go at this point.”

Houston (11-17) defeated Milwaukee 5-0 on Sunday, its second

straight victory following a three-game skid.

Carlos Lee went 2 for 3 with a home run and three RBIs before

being carted off after colliding with teammate Angel Sanchez in the

outfield. The slugger suffered bruised ribs, but X-rays and a CT

scan came back normal. However, he was too sore to play Tuesday and

there is no timetable for his return.

J.A. Happ (1-4, 6.35) will try to help Houston win three

straight for the first time this season, but he has struggled of

late.

The left-hander dropped his third consecutive start Wednesday,

allowing two runs over five innings of a 6-5 loss to St. Louis.

“It’s not going great, it is going tough for me personally,”

said Happ, who allowed a season-worst seven runs in four innings of

an 8-2 loss at Cincinnati on April 5.

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, who homered Sunday, is 4

for 5 with two home runs against Happ.