LIVE: Cubs trailing Reds on CSN

525492.jpg

LIVE: Cubs trailing Reds on CSN

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

CSN: Find the channel location in your area
FOLLOW: Patrick Mooney on Twitter
READ: What's left to find out in this Cubs season?
READ: Is Casher the X-factor?

(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-Marlins Sunday on CSN

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Sunday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Miami Marlins on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m., followed by first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies on the call. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Mike Montgomery (1-3, 2.26 ERA) vs. Edinson Volquez (3-8, 4.19 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

Jon Lester: It’s go time for Cubs

Jon Lester: It’s go time for Cubs

MIAMI – Jon Lester dropped his head and wiped the sweat from his face. The Cubs ace didn’t jerk his neck and twist his body, hoping the swing and the sound somehow fooled him. The slow turnaround revealed the obvious – the 75-mph curveball out of his left hand flew over the left-field wall and nearly into the Clevelander bar billed as an adult playground. 

Lester gripped the next ball, stared out into the visual noise at Marlins Park and went to work late Saturday afternoon after J.T. Realmuto’s two-out, three-run homer in the first inning. This is the bulldog determination and tunnel vision that’s been the antidote to the big-market pressures at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field and made Lester such a big-game pitcher.

“You really just have to lock it down,” Lester said after doing just that in a 5-3 win. “You have to try to figure out a way to pitch innings. That was one thing I learned at an early age in Boston with ‘Schill’ (Curt Schilling) and Josh (Beckett). It doesn’t matter. Now we start over. You have to take that mindset of ‘It’s back to zero’ and not keep looking at the scoreboard.”

From that Realmuto moment, Lester retired the next 13 hitters he faced, 15 of the next 16 and 18 of his last 20 at a time when the Cubs needed that performance to buy time for their young hitters, weather a series of injuries and survive a brutal schedule.

Lester believed enough in the coming waves of talent to sign with a last-place team after the 2014 season, and got rewarded with his third World Series ring, continually impressed with this group’s poise and maturity.

The day after getting shut out for the sixth time this season, Addison Russell, Ian Happ, Javier Baez and Albert Almora Jr. – four 24-and-under players – combined to go 7-for-15 with five RBI and four runs scored.

“It’s a test for everybody,” Lester said. “These guys are kind of getting broken in early. They’re going to figure it out and we’re going to go. Now it seems like our guys are really feeling comfortable at the plate. We’re having good at-bats, normal at-bats.

“The results will come. This is, obviously, a results-driven industry. But the plans – as far as on the mound and in the batter’s box – just look a lot smoother right now, a lot cleaner and hopefully we can just keep playing good baseball.”

[VIVID SEATS: Buy your Cubs tickets right here]

The Cubs are 38-36, a half-game behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers and in position to win three consecutive series for the first time since April. Whether or not Lester (5-4, 3.83 ERA) returns to Little Havana for the All-Star Game, he is the bellwether for this rotation.  

“Jonny’s just got this thing going on right now,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He knows where the ball is going and he gets the high-number velocity when he wants to. He’s not just pitching at 92, 93, 94 (mph). It’s in his back pocket when he needs it. And he gets it with command when he wants it.

“As well as I’ve seen him pitch – I know he had a great run last year also – from a stuff perspective, command perspective, it’s as good as he can pitch.”

This $155 million investment will at some point become a sunk cost. The Cubs understand the history of nine-figure contracts for pitchers and how desperately they need reinforcements. But almost 100 innings into this title defense, Lester feels like he’s just getting started. 

“I feel better now than I did in April and May, for sure,” Lester said. “I think bigger bodies just take a while sometimes. Some years are different than others. Some years you come out like gangbusters and you’re ready to go and the body feels fine. And other years it takes a while to get into that rhythm of pitching every five days again. This was one of those years.”