Reds can reverse losing trend vs. Phillies
Mike Leake wasn't too sharp the last time the Cincinnati Reds faced the Philadelphia Phillies, and the result was a historic defeat.
But if Leake has the same stuff as he did in his last start, the result could be a lot different this time.
The NL Central-leading Reds will try to end a six-game losing streak to the Phillies on Monday night in Philadelphia as these teams square off for the first time this season.
The last meeting saw Leake take the loss as he was tagged for four runs in six innings of a 6-4 defeat Sept. 1. That marked the first time the Reds had been swept by Philadelphia in a four-game home series since 1916.
Cincinnati (74-48) has lost 15 of 19 in Philadelphia (56-65), dropping three of four in their last series there May 23-26, 2011.
"That's probably been our toughest spot to play in the last couple of years - or them, period," manager Dusty Baker told the Reds' official website before Sunday's 5-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
Baker's club has won 12 of 16 on the road but is facing a Philadelphia team which has won nine of 13 at home.
The Reds, though, arrive with a comfortable division lead over second-place Pittsburgh and with Leake (5-7, 4.29 ERA) coming off his second complete game of the season.
The right-hander fired a four-hitter in Wednesday's 6-1 victory over the New York Mets. He threw 70 of his 111 pitches for strikes and set down 17 of the last 19 batters he faced.
"Awesome, awesome. He did his job," third baseman Todd Frazier said.
So have Frazier and Ryan Ludwick since Joey Votto went down with an injured left knee.
Frazier is batting .302 with seven homers and 24 RBIs since the 2010 NL MVP last played July 15, while Ludwick is hitting .343 with 12 homers and 33 RBIs during that 24-10 stretch.
Ludwick is hitless in nine at-bats against Roy Halladay (6-7, 3.80), Philadelphia's scheduled starter Monday.
It's been a rough year for Halladay, who is just starting to find his form since returning in mid-July after nearly two months on the disabled list with a strained lat. The two-time Cy Young Award winner is 2-1 with a 1.64 ERA in three August starts, striking out 20 and walking two.
"It's the best I've seen him throw in a little while," Miami manager Ozzie Guillen told the majors' official website after Halladay gave up three runs in six innings of Wednesday's 9-2 loss to the Marlins.
Halladay went 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two starts versus Cincinnati last season.
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley hit .156 (5 for 32) against Reds pitching in 2012, so manager Charlie Manuel might not be in a rush to put the five-time All-Star back in the lineup after giving him a rest Sunday following 30 consecutive starts.
Backup Michael Martinez went 2 for 5 with a two-run homer in Sunday's 8-0 win over Milwaukee as Philadelphia posted a second straight win following a three-game skid.
Ryan Howard, who raised his batting average from .213 to .246 by going 8 for 18 in the Brewers series, hit a team-best four homers off Reds pitching in 2011.
He is 3 for 8 with a home run versus Leake.