Reds-Padres Preview

The last time Mike Leake won three straight starts, he followed it up with possibly the worst outing of his career.

He probably doesn’t have to worry about such drastic struggles against San Diego.

The right-hander will try to win a career-best fourth straight start Tuesday night when his Cincinnati Reds face the Padres at run-starved Petco Park.

Despite their offensive deficiencies continuing in glaring form, the Padres (36-47) managed a 1-0 win Monday in the series opener. San Diego finished with one hit, yet it has won consecutive games on a total of three runs and five hits.

The Padres won twice in June on one hit, making them the first team since the 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers to accomplish the feat twice in a season.

”At the end of the day, you want to win the game,” manager Bud Black said. "(Monday), we won it with pitching.”

Including the no-hitter it suffered on Wednesday, the club is batting .115 with five runs scored over a 2-3 stretch, during which it has matched its season-long streak without a home run. San Diego has scored 20 runs and hit .173 in its last 10 home games, yet it’s 5-5.

The Padres are also 7-5 overall since June 18, almost entirely due to an MLB-best 1.77 ERA. In that time, the bullpen has allowed one run in 30 2-3 innings and currently owns a scoreless streak of 21 2-3 innings. The staff as a whole has strung together 17 straight scoreless innings since allowing a run in the first inning of Sunday’s win over Arizona.

Cincinnati (43-39) saw its season-best five-game winning streak come to an end, but its stretch of dominant pitching remains intact. The Reds have won eight of 10 and posted a 1.60 ERA in that time with a .160 opponent average. Their starting staff’s .229 opponent average for the season is the lowest in baseball while its 3.24 ERA ranks second.

Leake (6-6, 3.41 ERA) won three straight from Sept. 6-17, only to allow four runs and eight hits while lasting just 1 2-3 innings in a loss to the New York Mets on Sept. 24.

His last two outings have been especially promising as he’s allowed a run and four hits in eight innings of each. In Thursday’s 3-1 victory in San Francisco, Leake struck out 12 batters – his first double-digit strikeout effort in 126 career starts, including the postseason.

Manager Bryan Price thinks Leake could be more of a strikeout pitcher, but knows there’s a tradeoff for the altered approach.

"He’s pretty consistent hitting 93, 94 mph with his fastball," Price said. "That’s not a fastball you have to apologize for. He could throw more pitches and be less effective but strike out more guys."

Leake faced the Padres on May 13 and didn’t factor into the 2-1 loss, though he held them to a run and two hits while striking out five in eight innings. He’s 0-1 with a 2.66 in four career matchups.

Ian Kennedy has been far worse recently with a 0-3 record and 6.08 ERA over four starts. Kennedy (5-9, 4.01) gave up four runs and nine hits while striking out eight in 6 1-3 innings of Wednesday’s 4-0 loss in San Francisco.

Cincinnati has typically made for easier outs as Kennedy has gone 3-1 with a 2.55 ERA in five career starts, but he did allow five runs and 11 hits in six innings of a road loss on May 15. Ryan Ludwick and Brandon Phillips are both 3 for 16 against Kennedy while Jay Bruce is 2 for 12.

Predictably, the season series has been perfect for those who appreciate dominant pitching. The Padres have won three of four despite hitting .139, with 16 total runs being scored.