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Dale Earnhardt Jr. to retire from NASCAR following 2017

Leake: Cardinals have Reds figured out

The Reds clubhouse stayed closed for much longer than usual after Sunday’s 15-2 loss to the Cardinals. By the time the media was granted entry, it was almost empty. Only a few players were around.

After a rough day on the mound, Mike Leake stayed and tried to explain what went wrong in his worst start of the season. He gave up seven earned runs in five innings and saw his ERA climb from 2.59 to 2.94.

Maybe it would have been a different story if not for a bloop two-out single by Allen Craig in the first. That started a four-run rally.

“I think they’re the toughest hitting team there is,” Leake said. “Not taking anything away from other good hitting teams, but their numbers don’t lie and they make you pay.”

All eight players the Cardinals started Sunday are hitting at least .260, and seven hit over .270. The Cardinals have scored 44 runs in their last four games without their best player in the lineup, injured catcher Yadier Molina.

“I don’t know if it’s the way they home grow their own guys and how they develop them, but they’re never out of it,” Leake said. “Even if you get two strikes, they all seem into the at-bats all the time. Some teams you play better than others, but they’ve got our number for sure.

“They play us tough. It’s on us to figure them out because they’ve got us figured out for the most part.”

Hoover’s streak: Three Reds relievers got roughed up Sunday. Logan Ondrusek, Pedro Villarreal and Sam LeCure combined to give up eight earned runs in three innings. Only Alfredo Simon pitched well, retiring all three batters he faced in the sixth.

Sunday’s results aside, the Reds bullpen has been great lately, and J.J. Hoover is the hottest reliever of the bunch. Hoover said he doesn’t pay attention to his numbers, but knows he’s pitching well.

As for his 20-inning scoreless streak, he’ll let others talk about that. Hoover made his 17th straight scoreless appearance in Saturday’s 8-3 win. His ERA has dropped from 5.40 to 3.09 in that stretch.

The key to Hoover’s success, he said, has been staying consistent with his delivery.

“The past two outings, honestly, I haven’t felt up to my ‘A’ game,” he said. “It’s kind of been a battle. But I think that’s one of my strengths: just going out and competing.”

Poised Cingrani: Reds manager Dusty Baker said he had lunch recently with Mark Prior, the pitcher he coached in Chicago who pitched with Cingrani earlier this year in Louisville. Prior told Baker that Cingrani had a rare attitude for a young pitcher in that he wasn’t intimidated by the name on the back of the uniform.

Cingrani showed what Prior meant Saturday. He didn’t pitch great against the Cardinals, allowing three runs in five innings in an 8-3 win. But he escaped early trouble against the likes of Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran.

“It amps me up more than anything,” Cingrani said. “I try to throw harder.”

Looking ahead: The Reds are off today and Thursday and play two games against the A’s at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Oakland swept a two-game series from the Reds in June and lead the all-time regular-season series 10-4. The teams haven’t played in Cincinnati since 2002, when the A’s swept a three-game series in the final season at Cinergy Field.

The Reds haven’t beat Oakland at home since Game 2 of the 1990 World Series when Joe Oliver’s hit in the 10th inning scored Billy Bates.

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