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CHC@CIN: Leake hurls eight frames of one-run ball

CINCINNATI -- In other circumstances, it might take a crowbar to pry Reds pitcher Mike Leake's toe off of the rubber and call it a season. But orders are orders.

At an innings limit and facing a shutdown, Leake finished his 2011 season with a flourish during a 2-1 Reds victory over the Cubs on Tuesday. Over eight innings, he gave up one run and six hits with two walks and two strikeouts.

It was the second straight time the Reds have beaten Chicago when Leake started the game. On Sept. 6, he pitched a career-high nine innings for a no-decision.

"I'd like to finish the year, but I understand," Leake said. "They want to keep me on a limit just to protect me and protect themselves. ... Hopefully it will trickle into next year."

The Reds are capping Leake's innings total at 175 combined for the big leagues and a short stint at Triple-A Louisville. That was up from the 138 1/3 innings pitched in his rookie season of 2010.

Leake finished his second big professional season 12-9 with a 3.86 ERA. He leads the club in victories and with 118 strikeouts.

"That's a great way to end the year," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It was excellent. I was proud of him.

"Now he's relegated to pinch-runner and, in a dire situation, pinch-hitting."

Leake was given a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning on Brandon Phillips' first career leadoff home run. Phillips drove a Ryan Dempster 3-2 pitch into the left-field seats for his 15th homer of the season.

The Reds made it a 2-0 gap in the fifth, an inning during which Dempster issued three of his six walks in the game. Runners were on first and second base with one out when Edgar Renteria's RBI single to center field scored Leake. A Joey Votto walk loaded the bases, but Jay Bruce's inning-ending double play on the ground to the shortstop killed the rally.

The Reds were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position overall and stranded eight men.

"I'm just glad that didn't come back to haunt us," Baker said. "Leake pitched great, and we scored just enough runs to win."

Chicago was also 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position as Leake found ways out of a few jams. He walked his first batter of the game, which was followed by a single. But the heart of the Cubs order couldn't convert as Leake got Aramis Ramirez to fly out, Carlos Pena to strike out and Bryan LaHair to also fly out.

"When I needed a pitch, it was there," Leake said.

After a Pena leadoff double down the right-field line in the sixth and a LaHair single, the Cubs' only run scored on Alfonso Soriano's 6-4-3 double play. Leake went on to retire his final eight batters and finish with 91 pitches. Francisco Cordero pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 33rd save.

One night after the Cubs scored 12 runs on the Reds, they were held to one run by Leake.

"He knows how to pitch, how to change speeds on us and change eye levels," Pena said. "It almost seems like he doesn't have a set plan for a hitter. He goes off what he senses. That's tough to prepare for because he doesn't follow any patterns. He deserves credit. He's a pitcher."

In his previous start at Wrigley Field, Leake took a one-hit shutout into the ninth and missed a win when LaHair hit a two-out, game-tying homer to send the game into extra innings.

"That's why we wanted him to have one more after that tough one the last time against the Cubs," Baker said. "He knew it was his last start, and boy he was pitching. You know those guys wanted him this time. He knew they went to the video room and tried to make the adjustments. He made adjustments."

Leake pitched at least eight innings for the fourth time during a season that started on a rocky note. He made the rotation only after injuries took out two starters and began the season with a 5.77 ERA through his first six starts. That time also included an April 18 arrest on a shoplifting charge that was later reduced. His record will be wiped clean upon completion of community service.

After bypassing the Minors from college after he was a 2009 first-round Draft pick, Leake was sent to Louisville to work on his stuff for two games and clear his mind. It appeared to do the trick.

"It was a good learning year," Leake said. "It was great to go down for a couple of weeks and come back up and prove that I belong here. It was nice to finish on a good note." Comments