Astros’ offense drained by Leake
The Associated Press
HOUSTON — Mike Leake was having trouble with his fastball, so he went to Plan B. He wouldn’t say exactly what that meant, but whatever it was, it sure worked well on Friday night.
Jay Bruce homered and drove in two runs to back a solid performance by Leake, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 4-1 victory over the sliding Houston Astros.
“When something is not working, you’ve got to find something that is working and that’s what I did,” he said. “It’s nothing in particular on a particular day, but today the fastball wasn’t working so I had to go to a pitch that was.”
When asked what that pitch was, the 24-year-old right-hander was coy.
“I can’t divulge that information,” he said with a smile.
Leake (2-5) had a season-high seven strikeouts in seven innings, yielding just one run and four hits.
“He was just throwing strikes when he needed them,” Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. “He would get in trouble, and he would slow down a little bit and find his tempo and his rhythm. Then after that he would go back at them again. That was big to get him his second one and hopefully he can get on a roll.”
Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the ninth for his fourth save. The Cuban left-hander has 47 strikeouts in 27 innings this season and hasn’t allowed an earned run.
Houston has dropped seven straight in its longest skid since it lost seven in a row last August.
Joey Votto hit a two-out single in the first and scored on Brandon Phillips’ double off the wall in center, putting Cincinnati up 1-0. Bruce then singled in Phillips.
Votto added another run-scoring single in the third.
Houston starter J.A. Happ (4-5) allowed three runs and five hits in a season-high seven innings. He struck out seven and walked two.
“I thought I made some good pitches, but then I didn’t make a few,” Happ said. “I guess sometimes there are games where there is no room for error, and those are tough ones. That kind of was one tonight.”
Bruce connected against Wesley Wright with two out in the ninth, hitting a drive to right for his 12th homer.
Leake retired 11 of 12 batters before Jose Altuve and Jed Lowrie hit consecutive singles to start Houston’s sixth inning. Carlos Lee grounded into a double play that allowed Altuve to score.
Jordan Schafer singled in the eighth, but was out at second when Altuve bounced into a force play. Lowrie walked before Lee grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Lee pulled up while running to first base with a strained left hamstring. He hobbled off the field and Chris Johnson moved from third base to first to replace him for the ninth.
Houston manager Brad Mills said Lee won’t play on Saturday, but wasn’t sure if he’d be out longer than that.
Happ settled down after Votto’s run-scoring single in the third, and Phillips grounded into a double play to end that inning.
He allowed a single by Ryan Ludwick with one out in the fourth, but got Todd Frazier to ground into a double play.
He retired the next seven after that, with Cincinnati’s next baserunner coming on a walk by Ludwick with one out in the seventh.
Lee singled in the second and Leake walked Brian Bogusevic with one out. A single by J.D. Martinez loaded the bases, but Leake escaped the jam when Chris Snyder grounded into a forceout and Happ struck out to end the inning.
“Offensively, the second inning would have been nice. The bases loaded, and we weren’t able to get anything with one out,” Mills said. “Then, the sixth inning when we did get a run, but we had first and third with nobody out, and I would have liked to keep that inning going.”
NOTES: The Astros wore the rainbow jerseys the team wore from 1975-86. Former Houston pitcher J.R. Richard, who went 107-71 in a 10-year career with the team, threw out the ceremonial first pitch and was inducted into the Astros Walk of Fame. … Houston OF Travis Buck has a sore heel and was not available. Mills said he’d probably need a couple of days. … These teams continue the series on Saturday when Cincinnati’s Mat Latos opposes left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.