Reds to start Mike Leake in Game 4

October 10, 2012, 3:57 pm
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CINCINNATI The Giants are hitting .121 in three games of this NL Division Series and they still havent received an out from a starting pitcher in the sixth inning.Yet somehowThey will attempt to hold onto their improbable playoff lives by putting their faith in a most improbable left-handed pitcher. Yes, Barry Zito is their champion today.Here are some key matchups as we approach Game 4 at Great American Ball Park:--Less than five hours before the first pitch Wednesday, the Reds officially received permission from Major League Baseball to replace injured Game 1 starter Johnny Cueto with right-hander Mike Leake.Leake will start Game 4 and Mat Latos would take the mound if the Giants can force a winner-take-all Game 5 on Thursday.--For a last-minute replacement, the Reds could do worse than Leake to oppose Zito.Leake, 24, was 8-9 with a 4.58 ERA but threw a complete game the last time he faced the Giants June 29 at AT&T Park. Leake allowed nine hits and just one run, when Pablo Sandoval took him deep in the ninth, to beat Matt Cain.Sandoval also doubled in that game and is 7 for 10 with two homers and two doubles in his career against the Arizona State product. Hunter Pence is 8 for 16 (.333) with two doubles and a homer. Ryan Theriot is the only other Giant with more than 10 at-bats against him.Leake is a control pitcher once compared to Greg Maddux, and not just by anyone. Doug Mapson, the current Giants special assistant and former Cubs scout who signed Maddux, said hes compared the future Hall of Famer to one amateur player in all the reports hes written over the years. Yep, it was Leake.Still, the right-hander has allowed 201 hits in 179 innings. So hes far from untouchable. Hes 4-5 with a 5.54 Era, .313 opponents average and whopping 17 home runs allowed in 16 starts at Cincinnati this season. Amazingly, Leake has allowed more homers than walks (15) at Great American Ball Park this season.Leake had a 4.01 ERA prior to the All-Star break and a 5.27 ERA after it. That's why he had been left off the Reds' NLDS roster.--MLB medical officials approved the Reds roster move after reviewing statements from Reds trainers, who maintained that Cuetos strained oblique would limit him to one start, maximum, in the NLCS should Cincinnati advance. Cueto, who exited after eight pitches in Game 1, would be ineligible to return to the Reds active roster until the World Series.--Barry Zito has pitched against the Reds 12 times in his career (11 starts) and his 6.25 ERA is his highest against any NL opponent.But its been a different outcome this season in two starts against them. He had nearly identical outings April 25 on the road and June 30 at home, both times holding Cincinnati to a run in six innings.The Reds were patient while drawing six walks against Zito in his last start against them, but the left-hander wasnt missing by much.--Zito is expected to throw to Buster Posey as Giants manager Bruce Bochy seeks to keep his regulars together and his best defensive alignment on the field.Zito threw to Posey in just seven of his 32 starts and was 2-1 with a 4.86 ERA as the Giants posted a 5-2 record. The left-hander spent most of the season throwing to backup Hector Sanchez, a pairing partly designed in the spring because coaches knew Posey would require regular rest as he recovered from last years horrific leg injury. Zito was 13-7 with a 3.97 ERA in starts with Sanchez as the Giants posted a 16-9 record.--Is there any Giants starter that Brandon Phillips doesnt have numbers against? The Reds second baseman is 8 for 19 (.421) with three doubles, five walks and zero strikeouts in his career against Zito.Center fielder Drew Stubbs is 5 for 13 (.385) and even lefty-hitting right fielder Jay Bruce is 5 for 14 (.357) with a home run. But Joey Votto is just 3 for 18 (.167) with no extra-base hits and just two walks in his career against the finesse lefty. If it were a regular-season game, Votto might be getting a day off.Although Ryan Ludwick has mashed lefties this season, hes just a .231 hitter (6 for 26) with a home run against Zito.Scott Rolen was the only Reds player to homer off Zito in two starts against Cincinnati this season.--If youve forgotten, the Giants are 11-0 in the last 11 games with Zito on the mound. Thats the longest stretch for a Giants starter since Bill Swift in 1992.