CINCINNATI -- While freezing inside the Reds' dugout on a chilly Tuesday night, manager Dusty Baker noticed some of his players' batting averages had some pretty low digits.Cardinals' pitching the last two games had plenty to do with that. It was Kyle Lohse and a strong bullpen that left the Reds bats cold again in a 3-1 loss at Great American Ball Park. Through their first five games, the Reds are batting .201 as a team.
"We've got some guys struggling right now at the plate," Baker said. "And we just have to relax and do what we're capable of doing."In both losses during the first two games of the three-game series, Cincinnati scored just one run and had a combined seven hits. Top hitter Joey Votto is batting .188 through five games and Scott Rolen, who delivered the game-winning pinch-hit single on Sunday, is batting .125. Negated by Lohse was a quality performance by Reds starter Mike Leake, who pitched six innings and allowed three runs and seven hits with one walk and four strikeouts. "I thought it was good and bad," Leake said. "I did get out of a couple of jams. Then again, I made three mistakes. I would say crucial mistakes. First outing, you learn from it." Mistake No. 1 came early, as Leake fell into a quick 1-0 deficit two batters into the game. Carlos Beltran hit a 1-1 pitch into the right-field seats for his third homer of the season.
The next three batters reached to load the bases, putting Leake into a dangerous situation.But defense bailed out Leake as Yadier Molina grounded to third base. In a slick play, Rolen stepped on third as gloved the ball and threw to first, where Votto scooped the ball for the inning-ending double play. Leake put the leadoff runner on in the second, but escaped when he adroitly fielded a one-out bunt from Lohse and turned a 1-6-4 double play. It was more than enough to keep Leake in the game, had the lineup managed to put something together. In the Reds' second, Jay Bruce led off with a double to right field to set up a scoring chance. But Chris Heisey, now batting .167, fouled a bunt attempt and eventually grounded out to third base, forcing Bruce to hold at second.
Drew Stubbs (.133) was also unable to move the runner over, as he grounded out to third. The inning fizzled after a Devin Mesoraco intentional walk, as Leake flew out."We attempted to move [Bruce] and didn't get him over," Baker said. "That's what we practice all the time. Get them over and get them in. We just have to do the little things, especially when you're struggling to score runs. You have to scratch, claw and scrape any way you can to get that run in. Then you start rolling from there." The Cardinals were similarly quieted for several innings, as Leake enjoyed a stretch where he retired 12 of 14 batters. "Leake did a good job of shutting us down for a while," Lohse said. "I was trying to come right at them. I threw a lot of first-pitch strikes. Somehow they ran my pitch count up high pretty quick. It's a different ballpark. Try to keep the ball out of the air or you can give up some home runs real quick". In what Leake considered another mistake in the top of the sixth, he threw a 2-2 slider to Lance Berkman that was smoked for a one-out triple to the right field wall. That miscue was compounded by a third one, as David Freese followed Berkman by sending a 0-1 pitch to right field for a two-run homer, his second in two nights. "You always have pitches you want to take back," Leake said. "You just have to move on." Lohse held Cincinnati scoreless for the first five innings and had retired eight in a row until Zack Cozart's leadoff triple through the right field gap in the bottom of the sixth. Votto's sacrifice fly to center field scored Cozart to make it a 3-1 game. Lohse, who gave up one run over 7 1/3 innings in his first start vs. Miami last week, allowed just the one run on four hits over six innings. Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte combined for three perfect innings as Motte recorded his second save. And like Monday's winner Jake Westbrook, they all kept Reds hitters off-balance. "[Lohse] mixed his pitches very well," Stubbs said. "The main thing he did was keep the ball down and stay away from the middle of the plate all night. Whenever he gave you a pitch to hit, it was on the corner. You noticed there weren't too many good swings where balls were hit hard."