"It would have been a graveyard in here if we didn't pull this one out," Leake said. "It was nice to get out of here, and hopefully we do something in Atlanta."
The Reds put the leadoff batter on base in seven of the nine innings. But each of their first four runs came with outs attached to the play. By going 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position, the Reds are now batting .167 in those situations over the last 24 games.
It was still enough to take a 4-1 lead through 4 1/2 innings against wild-throwing rookie Johnny Hellweg, who was sent back to the Minors following the game.
"My dad always told me that pressure busts a pipe," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "You keep that pressure on them and sooner or later something will come through."
Shin-Soo Choo started the game with a double to left field and scored on a two-out single by Brandon Phillips. Trying to extend his hit to a double, Phillips was the third out after a rundown between first and second.
Following a leadoff single by Jay Bruce in the second, the Reds had the bases loaded with no outs, as Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch and Xavier Paul walked. But only one run scored, on Devin Mesoraco's sacrifice fly to make it 2-1, before Leake grounded into a double play.
In the third, after Joey Votto's one-out double put runners on second and third with one out, Zack Cozart scored on a Phillips groundout to give the Reds a 3-1 lead. Hellweg walked his first two batters in the fifth, but the only run that scored was on a Bruce groundout.
"I know I sound greedy right now, but we want all the runs we can get and to try and not keep them in the game," Baker said. "When a game is close like that, especially in this ballpark, you're keeping them in the game by not cashing in those runs. A lot of times it comes back to haunt you."
This time it did not, as Leake worked 8 1/3 innings, giving up two runs, four hits and four walks with two strikeouts. He retired 13 in a row before allowing a one-out single in the ninth to Jonathan Lucroy, which prompted his exit. Aroldis Chapman recorded the final two outs in a non-save situation.
In the early innings, there were some hairy moments for Leake.
"It wasn't the best game I've pitched," said Leake, who threw 106 pitches to improve to 8-4 with a 2.69 ERA. "They made me work and were aggressive against me. That worked to my advantage. I definitely made some pitches when I needed to, to get out of jams. They put some pressure on me."
Leake started his day by allowing Logan Schafer's double followed by a Jean Segura single. But all that resulted in was a Carlos Gomez sacrifice fly. The leadoff batter in the third, Jeff Bianchi, walked, but was thrown out at home by Todd Frazier, who picked up on a two-out squeeze bunt attempt by Segura.
"He mixes his pitches well, locates outstanding with all of his pitches [and] he's down in the zone," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of Leake. "We didn't square-up too many balls."
In the fourth, Leake walked his first two batters, but escaped on an odd double play where one baserunner was forced out and one was tagged out on Rickie Weeks' hard shot to short. The play went 6-4-5-6.
Milwaukee made it a 4-2 game in the fifth when Sean Halton led off the inning with his first Major League home run, a shot to left-center field.
"Leakie couldn't get the first batter," Baker said. "That game wasn't an easy game. From the score, it looked like it was. We left a lot of men out there. They were in the game until the end. Like Mesoraco said, that was the best/worst game he's thrown this year. Leakie has a lot of guts and kept fighting and fighting and got the victory."
The Reds, who had dropped four of their five coming in, finally cashed in on scoring chances with some hits with men in scoring position in the seventh. Against reliever Donovan Hand with runners on first and second and one out, Phillips lofted a soft single to center to score Choo. After lefty Mike Gonzalez took over, Bruce kept the rally going with a lined single to center that scored Votto.
"We're still not where we need to be, hitting-wise," Frazier said. "At the same time, when we get runners on, we're the best team with less than two outs to get the guy in, no matter what. Whether it's a groundball RBI or sac fly, that's what wins games. We'll take it every day of the week and twice on Sundays."