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CIN@TB: Gomes belts his 11th homer of the season

ST. PETERSBURG -- A winning night that lacked drama or frustration? The Reds really needed one of those.

Mike Leake and the bullpen, along with the bats of Brandon Phillips and Jonny Gomes, helped make it so as the Reds cruised to a 5-0 blanking of the Rays in their Interleague series opener on Monday.

"It's a good thing for the manager," Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said of the smooth evening. "I will take that big time. We haven't had many of them. I hope we have a lot more to come."

Opening the series with a win was also big considering the Rays came in with a four-game winning streak, including a sweep at Houston. They are sending ace David Price to the mound on Tuesday, and the Reds have never faced him.

Cincinnati has also dropped each of its last three series, all of which started with losing the opener.

"First day into a new city, pretty much for a lot of guys," said Gomes, who hit a home run in the fifth inning. "[The Rays] had just come off a great series in Houston, swinging the bat well and pitching well. It all starts with Mike Leake. Pitching and defense win you a lot of games."

Over his six innings, Leake gave up only four hits with two walks and struck out three.

"He's an absolute pitcher," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "He knows what he's doing out there. I can understand why he has been successful."

Leake, who improved to 4-2 with a 2.49 ERA in seven starts since returning from Triple-A Louisville on May 27 and snapped a two-start losing skid, still wasn't fully satisfied with his night.

"I felt good, but I took a little step back as far as mechanics," Leake said. "I was a little disappointed on my first-pitch strikes tonight. Putting up zeroes, you can't complain."

Through Leake's first five innings, only three balls left the infield -- two of them were doubles.

"I didn't put any balls over the middle, maybe just one or two," Leake said. "Luckily they didn't do anything with them. I was just nibbling a little too much and a little more side-to-side with my mechanics than normal."

The Reds took a quick 2-0 lead against Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson. Fred Lewis led off the game with a grounded single up the middle and promptly scored from first base on Brandon Phillips' double over the head of center fielder B.J. Upton at the warning track.

It was start of a bountiful night for Phillips, who was 4-for-5 with two RBIs one night before his 30th birthday.

"It would have been a good birthday present," Phillips said.

Leading off the fifth, Gomes pounced on a Hellickson first pitch and drove it to left field, where it clanked off of what's called the "C-ring" catwalk that sits 105 feet over the field. It was Gomes' third homer in his last five games and 11th overall.

By rule, any ball that hits that catwalk in fair territory is a home run.

"It was a good opportunity to show the Reds the guidelines on the catwalk," said Gomes, the former Rays player. He now holds Tropicana Field's all-time lead in catwalk homers with nine.

With two outs in the fifth, Paul Janish's routine grounder to third base went through Evan Longoria's legs for an error. It had consequences as Lewis hit a single to right field and Phillips notched his second RBI, and an unearned run, with a single to left field for a four-run lead.

Leake endured one real jam all night, but caught a nice break to escape unscathed after Ben Zobrist's double and Longoria's walk. On Matt Joyce's lineout to left field, it turned into a double play as Longoria was ruled out for passing Zobrist as he was tagging up at second base.

"That was a double play that we'll take," Baker said. "It's probably something you'll never see Longoria do again. That ball did look like it was in the game. Freddy closed the gap pretty quickly and made a fine running play."

The official scorer ruled the play as a flyout to Lewis and credited the shortstop with an unassisted putout. Zobrist reached third base, but was left stranded when Casey Kotchman grounded out.

"It was just a brain fart," Leake said. "He doesn't make too many mistakes. That was a little gift for me."

With 99 pitches through six innings, Baker did not extend Leake any further. Sam LeCure kept Tampa Bay down for one hit over two well-pitched innings. Nick Masset had a one-hit ninth to close it out.

"He got into a little trouble there in the sixth," Baker said. "We thought he had gone far enough. When you've got a fresh bullpen like that, you can go to them."

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