Leake weak in first start vs. former team

Leake weak in first start vs. former team

CINCINNATI -- There was a lot of familiarity for Cardinals starter Mike Leake in his Tuesday start at Great American Ball Park.

There was the familiar backstop that he peered into before every pitch. There was the familiar center field adornment, the large boat-shaped Pilot House and the smokestacks that shoot fireworks after a home run. And then there were the familiar faces watching him from the Reds' home dugout.

But there were a lot of differences, too. The jersey was different for Leake this time, wearing St. Louis' shade of red instead of Cincinnati's. The walk to the mound was different this time too, coming from the visitor's dugout along the third-base line. And then there were the familiar faces in the batters' box -- the likes of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and many of his other former teammates.

So despite all the familiarity that Leake saw on Tuesday, his start was a little unfamiliar.

"It felt a little different," Leake said. "Facing friends and people you used to play with, it's a little different. Still, you've got to get them out."

While Tuesday was a homecoming for Leake, who spent his first 5 1/2 seasons with the Reds, it wasn't one he'll want to remember. Leake was knocked around for a season-high six runs over 6 1/3 innings as his team went on to lose, 7-6.

The problem for Leake was one that's plagued him in previous starts this season, with one bad inning coming back to haunt him. On Tuesday, it was the fourth inning, in which the Reds led off with two singles before Adam Duvall -- whom the Reds acquired for Leake last summer -- launched a three-run home run. A double by Eugenio Suarez in the next at-bat set up one more run, giving the Reds four in the fourth.

"One inning. Seems like every time he's had something that didn't work out, it was one inning," Cardinals' manager Mike Matheny said. "What'd he give up, four straight hits there with the three-run homer in the middle and then a double, sac and another sac fly? That happened in a hurry."

Familiarity may have played at least a small role in the Reds' ability to pick up on Leake. Votto went 1-for-3 against him with a first-inning double before hitting the game-winning walk-off homer off Kevin Siegrist. Phillips and Bruce both went 1-for-3 and scored a run. Billy Hamilton went 2-for-2 and hit a seventh-inning home run. But just like it helps the Reds, it at least has the ability to help Leake, too.

"He's been watching these guys for years and what he thinks their holes are, how he'd like to approach them," Matheny said. "But they've been watching him, realizing what his tendencies and sequences are. I think it's equal. It comes down to execution."

Ultimately, execution wasn't on Leake's side, and not for the first time at GABP. For his career, he owned a 4.31 ERA in his 516 innings coming into Tuesday.

"They hit some good pitches, they also hit some bad pitches," Leake said. "They had a pretty good game."

Cody Pace is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.