video thumbnail

CIN@SF: Leake goes the distance, hits a homer

SAN FRANCISCO -- Patience is a commodity rarely afforded struggling players when things go wrong. If at first you don't succeed, people want you out of there and someone else, anyone else, to take your job.

Imagine if the Reds had pulled the plug on Mike Leake in early May. Everyone would have missed out on seeing him become one of the rotation's most consistent starters.

In a 5-1 Reds win over the Giants on Friday, Leake did it all as he pitched the first complete game of his career and took a shutout into the ninth inning. He also went 2-for-4 as a hitter with his second home run of the season.

"The story was Leaky," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He was hitting. He was fielding. He was doing about everything that an athlete does. He's been throwing the ball well."

Leake gave up one run on nine hits with one walk and four strikeouts while throwing 111 pitches. Pablo Sandoval's booming one-out homer to right field in the ninth cost him his shutout.

Back on May 11 when he lasted a career-low three innings vs. the Nationals, Leake was 0-5 with a 7.71 ERA. In his nine starts since, he is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA. In his previous start Sunday vs. the Twins, he gave up two runs over a stellar eight innings and came away empty because of a blown save.

"We're not the kind of group around here that just gives up on a guy because he's struggling," Baker said. "He worked at it big time. He made some adjustments. He talked to some quality people. This guy is a very determined young man."

The Reds made life considerably easier for Leake with three runs in the top of the first inning against Giants starter Matt Cain.

It took just one pitch in the game for the Reds to dispose of the Giants' streaks of 36 straight scoreless innings and four shutouts. Zack Cozart deposited Cain's first pitch into the left-field seats for the first leadoff home run of his career.

After Drew Stubbs followed with a walk and Joey Votto hit a double to left field, Jay Bruce hit a two-run, one-out double to right-center field.

"It's huge. Zack set the tone," said Bruce, who tied a career high in hits with a 4-for-4 game. "You have to take anything you can get off of Matt. He's one of the game's best. You've seen what he can do. You see what he does pretty much every time out with the numbers he puts up every year. He made a few mistakes tonight that we took advantage of."

Having the lead early allowed Leake to get comfortable and challenge hitters.

"It was nice to be able to work quick and get through the game," Leake said.

Leake had runners in scoring position in each of his first five innings but found ways out of trouble each time. Helping the cause were two double plays.

One of them came in the fourth inning as Leake benefited from an odd play. When Brandon Belt grounded to second base, Sandoval tried breaking up a double play by grabbing Cozart's leg and pulling him down. After a quick conference, the umpire ruled it a double play because of the interference.

Leake retired the side in order just once -- in the eighth inning.

"I was able to make a pitch when I needed to," he said. "Fortunately, it went to people for me."

There were two outs in the sixth when Leake came through with his bat. He lifted a 1-1 Cain pitch to left field for a solo homer, his second long ball of the season.

"He gave me a good pitch to swing at," Leake said matter-of-factly about the Cain slider he hit out.

Leake is batting .357 as a hitter this season. His 37 hits over the last three seasons are the most from any pitcher in the Major Leagues.

"When you have a guy like that hitting ninth, it changes the lineup," Bruce said. "You can't just pitch around the eighth guy to get to the ninth guy. Mike is not just an out. He can take an at-bat. He can put a bunt down. He can do something with a bat that not a lot of pitchers can do."

After Sandoval took Leake deep, Belt hit a warning-track drive to center field. The game ended on a Brandon Crawford strikeout, allowing Leake to shake hands on the field for the first time.

"I'm not huge on complete games but it was nice to get one finally," Leake said. "It couldn't happen without the defense we had today and the early start we got in the first inning."

MLB.com Comments