LIVE: Cubs trailing Reds on CSN

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LIVE: Cubs trailing Reds on CSN

Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011
Posted: 8:54 a.m.

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(AP) -- Last week in Chicago, Cincinnati's Mike Leake was one out away from completing a one-hitter and his first career shutout when it all suddenly fell apart.

At least he doesn't have to wait until next season for a chance at redemption.

Likely making his final start of the year, Leake looks to exact some revenge Tuesday night against the same Cubs team that spoiled his gem.

At Wrigley Field last Tuesday, Leake had allowed only three baserunners - including one hit on Alfonso Soriano's second-inning single - when Starlin Castro came up with two outs in the ninth and the Reds leading 2-0.

Castro gave the Cubs life with an infield single and pinch-hitter Bryan LaHair followed with a game-tying home run. Leake got Aramis Ramirez to fly out, and walked to the dugout having thrown a career-high nine innings with nothing to show for it, although Cincinnati (71-76) won 4-2 in 13 innings.

"You hate to get two outs and it be the last at-bat. It got to me," Leake told the Reds' official website. "I'm glad we came back, or else I would have been wearing it even more."

It likely would have left an even worse taste in his mouth had that been his last start of the year.

Prior to the game, Dusty Baker said he wasn't sure if Leake would make another start. A day after watching the near-masterpiece, the manager decided he didn't want his 23-year-old right-hander's season to end like that.

Leake has thrown 167 innings between the Reds and Triple-A Louisville this season after throwing 138 1-3 last year as a rookie.

Although Cincinnati is concerned with his health for the future, Leake has looked strong lately. In 10 starts since the All-Star break, he has a 3.60 ERA while going at least six innings in each. He was extremely efficient against Chicago, needing only 65 pitches to get through seven innings and finishing with 91.

Leake has always pitched well against the Cubs, going 3-1 with a 2.95 ERA in six outings - all quality starts. He has shut down some of their top hitters, limiting Ramirez, Soriano and Geovany Soto to a combined four hits in 37 at-bats.

Those three all contributed in Chicago's 12-8 win in Monday's series opener. Ramirez had three hits - including a double and his 25th homer - Soriano went 2 for 5 with three RBIs and Soto drove in two. Castro also homered, scored four runs and drove in three while extending his career-high hitting streak to 13 games.

The Cubs (65-82) have won three in a row and six of eight, while the Reds have lost three in a row and 10 of 14.

Brandon Phillips hit two homers Monday after failing to go deep in his previous 20 games, but could have trouble against scheduled starter Ryan Dempster (10-11, 4.74), against whom he is batting .182 (6 for 33) lifetime.

Dempster gave up three runs and 10 hits in six-plus innings of Wednesday's 6-3 win over the Reds, but didn't get a decision. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 5.64 ERA in his last four starts after going 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA in the previous four.

He is 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA in four starts against the Reds this season.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Preview: Cubs open series with Pirates tonight on CSN

Preview: Cubs open series with Pirates tonight on CSN

The Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Catch first pitch at 6 p.m. with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Kyle Hendricks (15-8, 2.06 ERA) vs. Chad Kuhl (5-3, 3.73 ERA)

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David Ross helps Cubs edge Cardinals in regular season home finale

David Ross helps Cubs edge Cardinals in regular season home finale

CHICAGO — David Ross got fired up when Cubs manager Joe Maddon walked to the mound with two out in the seventh inning, ready to argue for Jon Lester to stay in the game.

Maddon and Lester had a different plan.

"Joe looked at him and said 'Have you ever been a part of where the catcher gets taken out of the game before the pitcher?'" Lester said, describing the scene with a big grin. "You can just see him, it's like the kid at the candy store when you tell him he can pick out whatever he wants.

"It was just like the disbelief in his face and slams his mask back over his face and all he can say is 'I love you guys. I love you guys. I love you guys.'"

Ross then walked off to another standing ovation from a raucous crowd of 40,859 at Wrigley Field, part of a heartwarming Sunday night for the backup catcher in his last season. He also hit his 10th homer and teamed with Lester for another scoreless performance, helping the Cubs to a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

"It was an amazing night," Ross said.

Ben Zobrist had three hits and scored two runs as Chicago finished with a major league-best 57-24 home record. It's the most home wins for the Cubs since they went 58-19 at the West Side Grounds in 1910.

The Cardinals lost for the third time in four games, wasting a chance to improve their playoff positioning. They remain a half-game back of San Francisco for the second NL wild card after the Giants lost 4-3 at San Diego earlier in the day.

"I think we're in a good position right now," pitcher Carlos Martinez said through a translator. "I also think we have a great shot at winning the World Series."

Ross, Lester's regular catcher, was greeted with a long standing ovation when he came to the plate in the second inning. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina walked halfway to the mound, forcing the unassuming Ross to take in the moment, and he took off his batting helmet to acknowledge the cheering crowd.

Ross then struck out, but he got another chance in the fifth and drove Martinez's second pitch over the wall in left for 1-0 lead. Ross clapped his hands as he rounded first on his 10th homer and the cheers continued after he reached the dugout, prompting a curtain call.

"It was just fitting that David would hit a home run, isn't it?" Maddon said. "I mean it had to have happened tonight."

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Lester (19-4), one of the top candidates for the NL Cy Young Award, struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander allowed three hits and walked one while improving to 10-0 with 1.34 ERA in his last 13 starts.

It was Lester's idea to pull Ross in the middle of an inning.

"He's like a brother to me and for him to give me that was pretty cool," Ross said.

The Cardinals pulled within one on Jhonny Peralta's two-out RBI single in the eighth, but Brandon Moss flied to center with runners on the corners. Willson Contreras responded with an RBI single in the bottom half and Aroldis Chapman worked the ninth for his 16th save with the NL Central champions and No. 36 on the year.

Martinez (15-9), pitching with a heavy heart after the death of Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident, allowed two runs and six hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked four.

"He had lots of juice," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It's probably the hardest sinker I've ever seen him throw. A couple of those were 97 (mph). He was locked in. He wanted it bad today, and he was good enough for us to win."