Reds rebound to avoid sweep by Cubs


Reds at Brewers, 8:10 p.m. Friday, FS Ohio, 700, 1410

A baseball sat on the chair by Reds third baseman Jack Hannahan’s locker. Three different lineup cards of varying sizes, including the large-print version he may want to frame some day, lay there, too.

Hannahan had a day to remember Wednesday and the souvenirs to help him remember it. His three-run home run in the sixth gave the Reds the cushion they needed to coast to a 6-0 victory and avoid a sweep by the Cubs at Great American Ball Park.

It was Hannahan’s first career pinch-hit home run and his first home run as a Red.

“The last three years, I’ve hit homers on opening day,” Hannahan said. “I finally play in a hitter-friendly park, I look up in September and see the goose egg in the home-run column. I didn’t know if I was going to get one.”

Hannahan averaged one home run every 52 at-bats before this season. He needed 129 at-bats to hit one in his first season in Cincinnati. However, he picked a good time to do it.

Even though the Reds already had a 3-0 lead, thanks to RBI groundouts by Xavier Paul and Zack Cozart in the second and a home run by Devin Mesoraco in the fourth, the 6-0 lead gave them reason to exhale in the final three innings.

“Everybody was so happy for him,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “It was big because 3-0 isn’t a very big lead.”

The Reds finished the homestand 7-3. It could have been better. Two losses to the Cubs, 2-0 on Monday and 9-1 on Tuesday, halted the Reds’ momentum.

This victory, pending later results by the Cardinals and Pirates, pulled the Reds to within 2½ games of first place and 1½ of second. They extended their lead over the Nationals in the race for the second wild card to 6½.

However, in the big picture, the second-to-last homestand of the season was a success, and it’s hard to argue with what the Reds did against the Cubs as a whole this season.

“That’s a very good homestand,” Baker said. “We beat the Cubs 14 out of 19. No matter what (happened in these three games), it’s tough to beat somebody that much.”

The Reds had scored a total of 11 runs in the five previous games. The offense awoke and provided plenty of run support for Mike Leake (13-6, 3.35), who set career highs in wins and innings pitched (182 2/3).

Leake threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing four hits and four walks. He has pitched well in his last two starts after four straight subpar outings.

“I didn’t have my best stuff, but I was able to put some zeroes up there and keep us in the game,” Leake said. “We needed a win today. You don’t want to get swept by the Cubs. It was definitely one of those games I had to go out there and keep it close as a pitcher.”