The Cincinnati rookie issued three walks in six innings, but he also drove in a run and Drew Stubbs(notes) homered as the Reds moved back into a tie for the NL Central lead by beating the Florida Marlins 5-4 Saturday night.
“I didn’t mind the three walks,” said Leake, who skipped the minor leagues and went right to the majors this season after being the eighth overall pick in the June 2009 draft. “It looked like I was throwing too many balls, but I was trying to be effectively wild. I wanted to keep them off-balance and not let them get too comfortable in the box.”
The Reds went into the game knowing division-leading St. Louis had lost to Chicago. The last few innings of that game were shown on the scoreboard at Great American Ball Park, with fans groaning at every Chicago miscue and cheering as the Cubs wrapped up their 3-2 win.
Leake (8-4) allowed runners to reach second base in every one of his six innings, but he was hurt only on homers by Dan Uggla(notes) and Wes Helms(notes). The rookie right-hander gave up six hits and three runs with six strikeouts, helping the Reds win both games they played while bench coach Chris Speier was managing in place of the suspended Dusty Baker.
“He kept us in the game and kept it close,” Speier said. “As an ex-infielder, I love to watch him pitch, because you know there’s going to be a bunch of action.”
Reds reliever Arthur Rhodes(notes) allowed the two batters he faced in the seventh to reach base before Nick Masset(notes) came on to pitch two shutout innings, setting up Francisco Cordero’s(notes) 31st save. He needed a run-scoring double play and a popup escape a bases-loaded, none-out jam.
“It was a little exciting,” admitted Cordero, who’s blown six saves and had fans booing from the first ball he threw to leadoff hitter Emilio Bonifacio(notes) in the ninth. “It wasn’t pretty. I’ve got to stop walking people. I see how upset the fans are.”
“They’re third and fourth hitters,” he said. “They have to be aggressive. If the ball is a strike, they have to swing. With one swing, it could be a double or a homer. If it would be any other hitter, it would be different. You have to tip your hat to their pitching, but we left way too many runners in scoring position. It’s one of those things.”
Florida left-hander Sean West(notes), making his second start since being recalled on Aug. 3, escaped a jam of his own making in the third. Paul Janish(notes) led off with a double, and West bobbled Leake’s sacrifice bunt for an error, but West rebounded to strike out the top three batters in the order—Brandon Phillips(notes), Chris Heisey(notes) and Joey Votto(notes)—all swinging.
West (0-2) wasn’t as lucky in the fourth. He walked Scott Rolen(notes) and Jonny Gomes(notes) to start the inning. Rolen moved to third on Stubbs’ fly ball to right field and scored with Gomes moving to third on Ramon Hernandez’s(notes) single to left.
Gomes scored and Hernandez advanced on Janish’s suicide-squeeze bunt, and Leake capped the inning with an RBI single, improving to .364 (16 for 44) with three RBIs.
Janish bunted a fastball headed for his knee, he said.
“Chris (Speier) told me to keep my head up for a situation that might come up,” he said. “That wasn’t an easy pitch to keep fair.”
That was intentional, West said.
“I heard, ‘Squeeze,’ at the last second,” he said. “I tried to throw the ball in to get a foul ball, but he did a nice job getting the bunt down.”
Uggla cut Cincinnati’s lead to one run with his 27th homer, a two-run liner into the left field seats. The Reds got one run back on Heisey’s leadoff walk and back-to-back singles by Votto and Rolen, chasing West.
Helms added a solo homer in the sixth, his fourth of the season. Helms has eight career home runs against the Reds, more than he’s hit against any other team.
NOTES: The start of the game was delayed 15 minutes by rain. … Reds and Fox football broadcaster Thom Brennaman broke his leg while wakeboarding on vacation in San Diego, said his father, Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman.