What the Cincinnati Reds needed they were given by Mike Leake, Devin Mesoraco and Jack Hannahan on a stiflingly hot Wednesday at Great American Ball Park.
They needed a strong starting afternoon from Leake. They got it — 5 2/3 innings, no runs, four hits, four walks.
“I didn’t have my best stuff, but I was able to string some zeros up there,” said Leake.
They needed some timely hitting. They got it from Mesoraco and Hannahan and it added up to a 6-0 win over the Chicago Cubs. It was the team’s 16th shutout, the most in a season since the 1973 team put together 17 shutouts.
After losing the first two of the series to the collapsible Cubs, the Reds were in danger of getting swept before embarking on an 11-day, nine-game trip to Milwaukee, Houston and Pittsburgh.
They rescued the final game and while taking only one of three from the Cubs can be called shameful, they did conclude the homestand with a respectable 7-3 record after taking three of four from St. Louis and three straight from Los Angeles.
The Reds came into the game 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position for the first two games. And believe it or not they scored two runs in the second inning by making two outs with runners in scoring position against Jeff Samardzija.
Jay Bruce, 0 for 7 with three strikeouts in the first two games of the series, led the second with a single and took third on Todd Frazier’s double.
Two runners in scoring position, no outs. Xavier Paul grounded to second and Bruce scored. Zack Cozart grounded to second and Frazier scored — so the Reds were 1 for 23 with runners in scoring position, but led 2-0.
Mesoraco was in an 0 for 13 slump when the day began and singled in the second inning. Then he gave Leake a comfort zone in the fourth by blasting a 429-foot home run into the upper deck in left, his ninth home run. Mesoraco finished with three hits but Zack Cozart’s 15-game hitting streak came to and end.
“It has been a struggle for me at the plate lately,” said Mesoraco. “He threw me a bunch of sliders and finally left one up and I put a good swing on it,” Mesoraco said of his home run.
Of Leake, Mesoraco said, “He didn’t have his best stuff, by any means. He was behind in the count a lot, but he never gave in. He had a good cutter which we were able to use more than we had in the past. He battled and battled and got some double plays (three).”
Hannahan put it all to rest in the sixth inning with two outs and two on. He was pinch-hitting and he worked the count to 3-and-2. The next pitch cleared the right field wall — a three-run home run and a 6-0 lead.
It was Hannahan’s first home run for the Reds, first home run this season and first career pinch-hit home run.
“Felt great and about time,” said Hannahan. “I’m playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark and you hate to go all year with a goose egg.”
Manager Dusty Baker was not thrilled with losing two of three to the Cubs, but thrilled with the 7-3 homestand.
“We won and we needed it big-time,” he said. “We hated to let the Cubs get out of here with two wins, but it would have been worse with three.”
There was a trifecta of positive pitching news before Wednesday’s game began.
• Johnny Cueto threw 60 pitches in a simulated game, 15 more than scheduled. It was the equivalent of three or four innings and he gave up just three hits. It appears he is ready to pitch in whatever capacity the Reds feel necessary.
• Sean Marshall came out of his 23-pitch simulated outing on Tuesday with no ill-effects and he, too, is ready for game activity.
• Tony Cingrani’s back spasms are gone after he left Tuesday’s game after 1 2/3 innings and indications are that he is available for his next scheduled start, if the Reds choose to do so.
With an off day Thursday and off days the two Thursdays after that, manager Dusty Baker said there have been discussions about possibly skipping the No. 5 spot in the rotation a couple of times to set up the rotation for the final weekend series against Pittsburgh and the possible one-game wild card playoff game.