The Cincinnati Reds, better known for their potent offense, have thrived of late due largely to the efforts of their starting rotation.
Red-hot Mike Leake(notes) takes the mound looking to continue that success as Cincinnati returns from a successful road trip to open a three-game interleague set with the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night.
After splitting four games in San Francisco, the Reds (37-33), who lead the NL with more than 4.9 runs per game, completed a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 7-2 victory Wednesday.
The 5-2 road trip was the first winning west-coast swing for Cincinnati since 2004.
“We’ll see what it means when we get home,” manager Dusty Baker told the Reds’ official website. “Hopefully we can get more distance between us and .500.”
Cincinnati’s rotation is 7-1 with a 1.90 ERA in the last 10 games, and perhaps no Reds starter has been hotter than Leake (6-2, 4.06 ERA).
The 23-year-old right-hander, who endured off-field troubles in April and a demotion to the minors in May to work on his control, is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA in four starts since getting recalled from Triple-A Louisville.
Leake was at his best during Saturday’s 10-2 victory over the Giants, allowing four hits, one walk and striking out a career-high eight over eight scoreless innings.
“Mainly my head is just back on straight a little bit,” said Leake, who has allowed three runs or fewer in five of his six home starts. “I think I lost it there for a little.”
After winning back-to-back starts, Reyes surrendered four runs and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings of last Friday’s 5-1 loss to Boston.
This matchup could pose a stiff challenge for the left-hander, who is 0-12 with a 6.49 ERA in his last 23 starts against NL opponents. However, his last win versus a club from the senior circuit was also the last time he faced Cincinnati, a 9-1 victory for Atlanta on May 3, 2008.
“Toronto’s home, and I love home,” Votto said. “I miss it and obviously when they come to Cincinnati, it won’t be the same. But it will be really cool to see some of the Canadian fans come down.”
Votto had gone 2 for 18 against Toronto prior to collecting four hits - including a home run - during a 7-5 road win June 25, 2009. The Blue Jays have taken six of nine meetings with Cincinnati all-time.
“We feel like we need the extra position player,” manager John Farrell told the Blue Jays’ official website. “We need to have a little bit of speed on the bench. We need to have some versatility when we get into pinch-hit situations…we need that flexibility.”