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ATL@CIN: Leake shuts down Braves over eight frames

Don't look now, but the Reds are on a roll. Despite dropping two of three in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati sits atop the National League Central with May turning to June. The Reds will look to cushion their 1 1/2-game lead Friday when they face the Astros.

The Reds are back to winning ways, of course, due in part to nine wins in their last 12 games. But before the victories started to roll in, the losses were piling up. Prior to the hot stretch, Cincinnati had lost five of its previous eight games.

"It doesn't mean much right now. It's early," Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick said. "Everybody in here knows we've got a good ballclub. We believe in each other. We're two months in. It's still early. We've got a long ways to go."

As for the Astros, who have lost six straight, home will be a welcome sight, as Houston is 16-10 at Minute Maid Park this season.

"When you're winning, everything is great," first baseman Carlos Lee said after the Astros swept a three-game series against the Cubs at home before embarking on their latest road trip. "You play loose, you take the lead, and you feel like later in the game with the way our bullpen is pitching, that we're going to win the game."

Reds: Leake trying to turn fortunes
Mike Leake will get the start for the Reds, having already struggled in one outing this season against the Astros. On April 27, Leake was unable to get through the fourth inning, allowing six runs on seven hits. The right-hander, who is just 1-5 on the year, is also coming off a poor start last time out, going just 3 2/3 innings on May 26 in Colorado.

"I was kind of beat a little bit," Leake said after that outing. "I still wasn't making pitches. I was up in the zone today and not getting quality stuff moving down. I was missing just off instead of on the plate. When I was on the plate, I was too much on the plate. It was kind of missed spots today."

Astros: Happ working the strike zone well
Friday starter J.A. Happ had a career-high-tying 10 strikeouts his last time out. He also gave up two runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings against the Dodgers and was pegged with the loss to fall to 4-4.

"He's getting a lot of guys to swing at balls that are just off the plate," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "If he happens to get a couple calls just off the plate ... then he can expand the plate, and he's all that much tougher."

• In correlation with the Astros' celebration of their 50th anniversary, Friday's game will be the fourth of 12 Flashback Fridays this season. The Astros will wear their rainbow jerseys, worn from 1975-1986. Additionally, pitcher J.R. Richard will be inducted into the Walk of Fame on Texas Avenue and throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Worth noting
• Reds first baseman Joey Votto is hitting .405 in 30 career games at Minute Maid Park, which includes a current 18-game hitting streak. It is the second-highest average in any stadium for Votto, behind Yankee Stadium.

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