DUAL THREAT: Leake proving fearsome on the mound & at the plate
In his last two starts, Mike Leake has been effective to the point that he alone has provided enough offense to assure himself victories.
He began the impressive work by out-dueling Shelby Miller while also showing off his home-run trot, and the right-hander gets a shot at an encore performance Monday night as the Cincinnati Reds open a three-game home series with the Atlanta Braves.
The teams split four in Atlanta from April 30-May 3 with Leake (2-1, 2.47 ERA) getting the better of Miller (4-1, 1.66) in a 5-1 Cincinnati win in the opener. Leake limited the Braves to two hits in eight scoreless innings and gave himself an insurance run with a seventh-inning homer off Miller.
It was the fifth homer of his career and second in 33 at-bats in 15 games, over which he’s also got five doubles and a .781 OPS. That trails only Kyle Kendrick among pitchers with double-digit plate appearances in that time.
It continued with an RBI double in Wednesday’s 3-0 win in Pittsburgh with Leake again going eight innings while allowing six hits.
"I’m starting to see the ball a little better and put some good at-bats together," Leake told MLB’s official website.
The 16-inning scoreless streak is his fourth best and his 21 1-3 career-best run from Sept. 6-24, 2013, is within reach.
"I’m just trying to pitch," Leake said. "That’s what I’m telling myself, just pitch. Just keep the ball down and mix it up and keep them guessing. I just have to keep that going."
Against the Braves, he’s 4-2 with a 2.03 ERA in seven starts, as well as a career .350 (7 for 20) hitter with two home runs, three doubles and a 1.150 OPS.
Leake might need another gem to again top Miller. The right-hander had easily his best start with Atlanta in Tuesday’s 9-0 home win over Philadelphia, surrendering three hits and striking out eight in his third career shutout.
His mindset might serve him well against the in-form Leake.
"At the end of the day, you have to go out there with the mentality that it’s a nothing-nothing ballgame and just try to put up zeros," Miller said. "This was a fun one."
The 24-year-old allowed three runs – two earned – and six hits in the game against Leake, dropping Miller to 2-3 with a 3.24 ERA in seven starts against the Reds.
Miller has had few problems with Jay Bruce (1 for 12), Zack Cozart (2 for 14), Marlon Byrd (2 for 12 with six strikeouts), Billy Hamilton (2 for 12) and Todd Frazier (3 for 17), and he’ll be charged with halting the Braves’ road struggles.
After winning their first four away from Atlanta, they’re 2-9 in opposing ballparks, including a three-game sweep in Washington over the weekend capped with Sunday’s 5-4 loss. Since Miller’s gem, the Braves (14-17) have a 7.29 ERA and .348 opponent batting average.
Offensively, Freddy Freeman stayed hot with a 2-for-4 day and is 14 for 28 on a seven-game hitting streak.
The Reds (15-16) are also coming off a series loss, falling 4-3 Sunday against the Chicago White Sox. It concluded a 5-5 road trip that began in Atlanta.
Cozart was 3 for 4 with a double and two RBIs and is 11 for 24 over seven games, while Bruce is 4 for 33 in nine and 4 for 34 in his last 10 against the Braves.