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Reds' offense shows signs of life in victory

The SportsXchange

MILWAUKEE -- Offense has been a growing problem for the Cincinnati Reds, who had scored three or fewer runs in 10 of their past 13 games heading into their matinee Wednesday against the Brewers.

Even the minor leagues offered no relief, as manager Dusty Baker noted before the game.

"We're not scoring runs in the whole system," Baker said. "It's not just here, it's everywhere."

Fortunately for Baker and the Reds, the pitching staff has stepped up in recent days and Wednesday was no exception, as right-hander Mike Leake worked into the ninth inning of the Reds' 6-3 victory over Milwaukee at Miller Park.

Leake wasn't overpowering, recording just two strikeouts, but was efficient with his pitches, needed just 106 to go a season-high 8 1/3 while allowing just two runs on four hits and four walks to win

"I didn't think he was going to make it," Baker said. "They were hitting the ball hard."

Leake was fortunate to have the Cincinnati defense at its best Wednesday. He induced 13 groundouts compared to just four fly balls. The Brewers, themselves, helped his cause, with a number of outs on the base paths, including a fourth-inning gaffe that might have erased Milwaukee's best scoring opportunity of the day.

Carlos Gomez drew a leadoff walk and with Jonathan Lucroy up, stole second. Lucroy walked and when Rickie Weeks grounded into a fielder's choice that erased Lucroy at second, Weeks was caught off the bag in a rundown and eventually retired.

Baker called it a key play but Brewers manager Ron Roenicke downplayed it as aggressive base running.

"He thought it was going to be caught," Roenicke said. "I know we kind of messed up the base-running there, too. The difference would be they would have turned two anyway -- even if Gomez runs to third base, they would have turned two - we just would have two outs with a runner on third instead of two outs with a runner on first base."

From there, Leake went into cruise control. He retired Yuniesky Betancourt to end the inning and after a leadoff home run by Sean Halton and a Jeff Bianchi walk in the fifth, retired 11 in a row before Lucroy's one-out single in the ninth.

That would be the end for Leake, as Baker handed the ball to Aroldis Chapman, who got Weeks to bounce into a force at second and struck out Betancourt to prevent a Brewers sweep.

Leake was relieved.

"It wasn't the best game I've pitched," he said. "It' would have been a graveyard in here if we didn't pull it out."

While Leake was battling on the mound, his offense was scraping together runs against struggling Brewers rookie Johnny Hellweg.

Hellweg (0-3), in just his third major-league start, again struggled to keep men off base, allowing four runs on four hits and five walks with a hit batter and a strikeout in 4 1/3 innings. He allowed the leadoff batter to get aboard in each inning and allowing that runner to score in the first three.

Sinn-Soo Choo led off the game with a double and scored on Brandon Phillips' single, but Phillips got caught between first and second, allowing Hellweg to escape an early hole.

Milwaukee evened the score at 1-1 on Gomez's sac fly in the first but the Reds came back with runs in the second and third to take a 3-1 lead and got another in the fifth when Zack Cozart scored on a Jay Bruce groundout.

Hellweg has allowed 20 earned runs (13 earned) in just 10 1/3 major league innings.

"I'm still confident, and I know what I can do," said Hellweg, who was optioned to Single-A Wisconsin after the game. "I didn't show it the last couple times out, but I think it is going to put more of a drive or a fire in me to come back up to do it right next time."

Roenicke said the Brewers chose Single-A in order to keep Hellweg on a fifth-day schedule should the team opt to bring him back up after the All-Star break. The team will make a corresponding roster move on Thursday when it opens a weekend series in Arizona.

NOTES: Neither Norichika Aoki nor Ryan Braun were in the Brewers' starting lineup Wednesday. Aoki missed his second consecutive game with tightness in his elbow but is expected to return Thursday when the Brewers travel to Arizona. Braun is being eased back after returning from the disabled list Monday. ... Reds outfielder Chris Heisey was not in the starting lineup Wednesday, a day after taking a Wily Peralta pitch to the elbow. ... Milwaukee right-hander Marco Estrada, out since June 4 with a hamstring injury, will throw a simulated game this weekend in Arizona and could start a rehab assignment next week.
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