Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier reached the upper deck Monday night, while Mike Leake moved into the upper echelon of National League pitchers.
Leake held the Pittsburgh Pirates to one run on six hits through seven innings to move into the top 10 in ERA and wins in the NL, and the long home runs by Cozart and Frazier gave the Cincinnati Reds all the offense they would need in a 4-1 victory before a crowd of 28,892 at Great American Ball Park.
“He’s the same pitcher, just new and improved,” Baker said of Leake, who struck out three batters while walking one and hitting one to lower his ERA to 2.64 and raise his record to 7-3, one win shy of his entire 2012 total. “He’s quietly going about his business with no fanfare, no difference in personality.”
At game’s end Leake ranked 10th in the NL in ERA and tied for ninth in wins.
He is 5-1 in his last seven starts with a 1.15 ERA, allowing only 39 hits in 47 innings with 34 strikeouts and seven walks.
“I feel like I’m pitching better and mixing it up and breaking down the hitters a little bit,” Leake said. “I’m more mature and thinking a little more. I feel like I’m back to how I was in college a little bit, just pitch wise and reading guys a little bit better. It’s the same pitches, same everything, just a little bit more knowledge.”
Cozart gave Leake and the Reds a 1-0 lead with a 437-foot homer in the fourth inning off Pittsburgh starter and loser Francisco Liriano (5-3), his seventh of the year.
The Pirates got even in the sixth on Russell Martin’s two-out double that plated Andrew McCutchen. But after Liriano fanned Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce to start the bottom of the sixth, Frazier hit the first pitch he saw 443 feet into the bleachers in left center.
“Cozart and I have a little joke running, and I told him if you try to hit one farther than me I’m going to beat you every time,” Frazier said after blasting his ninth homer of the year and third in the last six games.
After Sam LeCure allowed a one-out single to McCutchen in the eighth, Tony Cingrani came on for his first relief appearance of the year and stuck out Gabby Sanchez and Pedro Alvarez around a two-out walk to Martin, preserving the one-run lead.
Joey Votto (12th) and Bruce (13th) added some cushion in the bottom of the eighth with opposite-field solo shots to make it 4-1, and Aroldis Chapman worked around a one-out walk in the ninth for his 18th save.