Sitting at two games above .500 for the first time all season, the Cincinnati Reds took the opener from the San Francisco Giants by a final of 3-1.
It was undoubtedly Mike Leake’s night down by the bay, as he racked up a career-high 12 strikeouts. Leake’s dozen also matched Johnny Cueto for the season-high thus far in 2014, which had been accomplished on two separate occasions.
As Billy Hamilton and Todd Frazier singled to lead off the sixth inning, the heart of the order seemed poised to put a crooked number on the board. After Votto could not get the job done, Hamilton swiped third for himself, his 32nd steal of the year. His blazing speed could not outrun Devin Mesoraco’s pop out to second base, which Hamilton stunningly attempted to tag on. By the element of surprise, the move may have worked, but Giants’ second baseman Joe Panik failed to panic (pun completely intended), gunning down Hamilton at the plate.
In the bottom of the sixth, Leake would face his first challenge of the evening. Hunter Pence would spark a two-out rally with a triple, before Buster Posey would be given a free pass. It was Leake v. Sandoval with the game seemingly up in the air. As Leake blew away Sandoval to end the frame, a pump of the fist signified victory for the Arizona State product.
Carrying a 25-inning scoreless streak entering Thursday night’s game, Jean Machi and his miniscule ERA had all but secured him a spot on the All-Star roster despite his curious bullpen usage. His first pitch of the night would be deposited into the San Francisco bleachers.
Back in the lineup for the first time in three games, Brandon Phillips took a few at-bats to get his bat warm, before cranking his sixth home run of the season.
The runs off Machi would not cease there. Jay Bruce doubled, and then scored on an RBI single off the bat of the blisteringly hot Ryan Ludwick. Even with the two runs allowed, Machi’s ERA still sits at an astonishing 0.84.
The insurance runs pushed across in the seventh would prove vital as Adam Duvall cranked his first Major League home run in the bottom of the inning. With a 0-2 count, Leake failed to bury his curveball far enough out of the zone, and the prolific long ball smasher at the minor league level took advantage for a moment he will surely never forget.
Only three hits and a single walk served as a blemish to Leake on Thursday night. His 12 strikeouts served as a starting point to explain just how dominant he truly was against an offense that has been struggling to say the least.
Turning the ball over to Aroldis Chapman, Leake took the game as far as he could. Even with a lead-off double from Posey, Chapman would not bat an eyelash as he retired the following three batters, giving the Redlegs a crucial first victory of the four-game set.
Even with the 3-4 hitters (Joey Votto and Devin Mesoraco) going a combined 0-for-8, Todd Frazier, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce picked up the slack—all with multi-hit nights.
Friday night’s collision down at AT&T Park should be cannot miss action. It features the Reds’ best against the Giants’ best in Johnny Cueto against Madison Bumgarner.
At 10:15 p.m., the Reds will look to finally squeak a run across against Bumgarner, who blanked the club back home in Cincinnati just a month ago.
Tags: Cincinnati Reds