Mike Leake wouldn't come clean with what pitch he went to when he had trouble with his fastball in his latest start. More often than not lately, whatever he's been using has worked just fine.
Leake (2-5, 4.95 ERA) looked in danger of being sent to Triple-A after going 0-5 with a 7.11 ERA through his first six starts, but he's settled down nicely over his last four. The right-hander improved to 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA in that stretch by holding Houston to a run and four hits over seven innings in Friday's 4-1 road victory.
Though Leake's fastball wasn't working all that well, he managed to strike out a season-high seven by going to a backup out pitch - one he wasn't willing to share.
"I can't divulge that information," he said with a smile.
"When something is not working, you've got to find something that is working and that's what I did. It's nothing in particular on a particular day, but today the fastball wasn't working so I had to go to a pitch that was."
Leake is 1-3 despite a 2.84 ERA in seven career starts against the Pirates (28-27), going at least six innings in all but one of those. He made it through seven May 5 in Pittsburgh, but allowed a two-run homer to Neil Walker and a solo shot to Alex Presley in a 3-2 loss.
If the Pirates plan on taking another series from the Reds (31-24) after winning two of three at PNC Park last week, they'll certainly want to get all the offense they need in the first eight innings. After pulling to within 5-4 in the eighth on Andrew McCutchen's three-run homer Wednesday, Pittsburgh was set down in order in the ninth by Aroldis Chapman.
Chapman fanned two Pirates, giving him 52 strikeouts in 29 innings. He's yet to allow an earned run this season in 24 appearances - a club record - and has yielded seven hits, none in his last 8 2-3 innings.
"You got to see one of the reasons the Reds are in first place," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
The biggest reason Pittsburgh is in second is its pitching, as it boasts the majors' third-best ERA (3.30). The Pirates' rotation generally hasn't produced two poor outings in a row, and it'll turn to Kevin Correia after Brad Lincoln struggled Wednesday.
Pittsburgh hasn't had starters give up four runs in back-to-back games since May 15-16, and Correia (2-5, 4.19) hasn't yielded more than three in any of his past three outings.
He won for the first time since April 15 on Friday, holding Milwaukee to two solo homers over 5 2-3 innings in an 8-2 victory.
"It's been a challenging first two months for him," Hurdle told the team's official website. "It was good to see him go out there, make pitches and get the game to a point our bullpen could take it home."
Correia gave up five runs in seven innings of a 6-1 home loss to Cincinnati on May 4, but he didn't need the bullpen to finish anything in his last start at Great American Ball Park. The right-hander went the distance in a 9-3 win April 18, 2011, just his second career complete game.
The only hit Joey Votto - who will look to extend his hitting streak to 13 games - has in eight at-bats against Correia since 2010 is a homer, although he does have five walks in the matchup in that span.