Leake seeks to remain unbeaten himself and help the Reds improve to 5-0 in the season series with the Brewers on Tuesday night at Miller Park.
Only one-half game separates NL Central contenders Cincinnati (12-11) and Milwaukee (11-11), but the division rivals have been anything but evenly matched when facing each other recently. The Reds have taken 19 of the last 22 meetings dating to July 2009, including a three-game home sweep to open this season and a 9-5 victory in Monday’s series opener.
The Reds have outscored the Brewers 32-16 in 2011.
“We haven’t scored as many runs as they have,” said Milwaukee third baseman Casey McGehee(notes), who sprained his left thumb on Monday’s final play and will be re-evaluated Tuesday. “It’s as simple as that.”
Brandon Phillips(notes) went 3 for 4 and drove in three runs Monday, while Jay Bruce(notes) added a two-run homer. It was an encouraging performance for the Reds, who had been hitting .229 in a 3-8 stretch entering this series.
“We’re coming together, it’s about that time,” said Phillips, who batted cleanup for the first time this season. “Good teams are going to go through things like that.”
Leake (3-0, 4.94 ERA) has benefited greatly from the Cincinnati offense, which has supported him with 11.8 runs per nine innings in his four starts. The 23-year-old right-hander pitched solidly in a 7-4 home victory over Arizona on Thursday, limiting the Diamondbacks to three runs and four hits over seven innings.
Most impressively, Leake managed to brush distractions aside and earn the win three days after getting arrested for shoplifting from a Cincinnati department store.
“I’ll be better once it’s all done,” said Leake, the Reds’ top draft pick in 2009. “Right now, I’ve just got to eat it and go out there and do what I can for the team.”
Leake has never faced the Brewers. He’ll be opposed by Marco Estrada(notes) (1-0, 3.21), who will make his third start of the season to go with a pair of relief appearances. The right-hander pitched well in his last start April 17 at Washington, limiting the Nationals to one run over six innings while striking out seven, but didn’t get a decision in Milwaukee’s 5-1 loss.
Estrada pitched a perfect inning of relief against Houston on Friday. He’s made one career appearance out of the bullpen against the Reds, allowing one run over four innings last May.
A bright spot for the Brewers on Monday was Ryan Braun(notes), who had two hits including a two-run homer - his eighth of the season, tied with Toronto’s Jose Bautista(notes) for the major league lead.
The reigning NL player of the week, Braun also extended his hitting streak to 10 games and has reached base safely in the first 22 games of the season - one shy of Robin Yount’s franchise record set in 1983. He’s 6 for 16 with three homers and six runs scored versus Cincinnati in 2011.