An unexpected source of offense has the injury-riddled Los Angeles Dodgers gaining momentum.
Mike Leake is looking to put a stop to it and continue his own.
Los Angeles (45-37) has won two of three after a slew of injuries contributed to a 4-14 stretch since it last won two straight June 9-10.
The Dodgers are still without star center fielder Matt Kemp (hamstring), right fielder Andre Ethier (oblique), second baseman Mark Ellis (knee), starter Ted Lilly (shoulder) and reliever Javy Guerra (knee). Reliever Todd Coffey (elbow) joined them on the disabled list Tuesday and will undergo Tommy John surgery.
Los Angeles overcame those absences Tuesday, and pulled within one-half game of NL West-leading San Francisco with a 3-1 win over the Reds.
Cruz doubled in the go-ahead run in the seventh and advanced to third before stealing home on the next pitch. He has two RBIs in this series after being recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque, his first stint in the majors since 2010 with Milwaukee.
"When I got to third base, I was excited because I got a hit - and right away (third base coach Tim Wallach ) told me: 'Squeeze,'" Cruz said. "When they see a guy going home, they always try to throw it high so that the catcher can just catch it and tag me."
Cruz has a .220 average in 58 games over four seasons with Pittsburgh, the Brewers and the Dodgers. However, he was hitting .318 in the minors.
Leake (3-5, 4.12 ERA) is expected to get the ball for Cincinnati (44-36), and he's 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA in nine starts after going 0-5 with a 7.11 ERA in his first six of the season.
"We're not the kind of group around here that just gives up on a guy because he's struggling," manager Dusty Baker told the team's official website. "He worked at it big time. He made some adjustments. He talked to some quality people. This guy is a very determined young man."
Leake surely looked the part Friday, throwing a nine-hitter in a 5-1 win at San Francisco for his first complete game. The right-hander also contributed with the bat, going 2 for 4 with his second homer of the season.
He's 7 for 17 in the last eight games against NL opponents.
"When you have a guy like that hitting ninth, it changes the lineup," right fielder Jay Bruce said. "You can't just pitch around the eighth guy to get to the ninth guy. Mike is not just an out."
Leake, though, is 1-1 with a 7.04 ERA in three games - two starts - versus Los Angeles.
His mound opponent will be Aaron Harang (5-5, 3.68), who makes his first start against the Reds since leaving them via free agency following 2010. He spent seven-plus seasons in Cincinnati, struggling through the last three with an 18-38 record and 4.71 ERA.
The right-hander revived his career with San Diego last year, going 14-7 with a career-best 3.64 ERA.
Harang hasn't been nearly that effective in his last three starts, going 0-2 with a 5.87 ERA. He struggled again Friday, surrendering five runs and seven hits with four walks in 5 2-3 innings of a 9-0 loss to the New York Mets .
Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick is 14 for 33 (.424) with three homers lifetime against Harang.
|June 30, 2012||Joey Votto||Day-to-Day||Left game - left knee inflammation|
|June 28, 2012||Brandon Phillips||Day-to-Day||Head|
|June 12, 2012||Zack Cozart||Day-to-Day||Illness|
|June 06, 2012||Drew Stubbs||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|June 06, 2012||Drew Stubbs||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|May 12, 2012||Scott Rolen||15-Day DL||Strained left shoulder|
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|July 03, 2012||Todd Coffey||15-Day DL||Right elbow soreness|
|June 27, 2012||Andre Ethier||Day-to-Day||Left game -left oblique strain|
|June 03, 2012||Javy Guerra||15-Day DL||Right knee inflammation|
|May 31, 2012||Matt Kemp||15-Day DL||Re-aggravated strained left hamstring|
|May 30, 2012||Matt Kemp||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left hamstring|
|May 24, 2012||Ted Lilly||60-Day DL||Left shoulder inflammation|
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Aaron Harang was rolling along against his former team, feeling good and pitching with the lead. So when Don Mattingly came out to the mound, Harang did his best to dissuade his manager from pulling him.
"I was trying everything to get to stay out there but when a manager gets a feeling there's not always times you can talk him out of it," he said after the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Cincinnati Reds 4-1 on Wednesday night to regain the NL West lead. "He had his mind made up."
Harang (6-5) allowed one run and three hits, struck out five and walked one in his second career start against the team he pitched for from 2003-10. The right-hander last faced the Reds and beat them on June 21, 2002, with Oakland.
"He was just kind of effectively wild," said Zack Cozart , who went 1 for 4. "He was throwing balls up in the zone and not really leaving anything over the plate. He had good stuff. We didn't put any good swings on him, and it showed."
Harang wanted to stick around partly because it was his old team. He won for the first time in nearly a month.
"I felt like I had control of the game, was never really in a situation where I was pitching out of jams except for maybe the third inning when I got runners on first and third with two outs," he said. "Other than that I felt like I was doing what I needed to do, pounding the strike zone and getting myself ahead."
Mattingly agreed that Harang had plenty left to stay in the game, but in case of trouble, he didn't want to have to get into his left-handers.
Ronald Belisario pitched a scoreless eighth, lowering his ERA to a NL-best 0.99, before Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth to earn his 14th save in 17 chances.
The Dodgers took two out of three against the Reds to snap their skid of four straight series losses. They had not won a series since June 15-17 against the Chicago White Sox, while they won two in a row for the first time since June 9-10 at Seattle.
"Even though it's been slow with these two wins, we really feel that momentum shifting to where we're getting back to where we were," catcher Matt Treanor said. "The pitching staff has been doing an outstanding job even through the slumping part of this year."
The Dodgers wasted no time in jumping on Mike Leake (3-6), who gave up four consecutive hits to open the game before he settled down and gave up just two hits the rest of the way. The right-hander allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings, struck out five and walked none in a rocky follow-up to his complete-game victory at San Francisco last Friday.
"I wasn't quite loose. I probably should have thrown a few extra pitches in the bullpen," Leake said. "I was helping them out leaving balls over the middle and not really locating it too well. But after that, I got into a rhythm so I can't really complain."
Dee Gordon led off with a double. Luis Cruz had an RBI single and Bobby Abreu 's single sent Cruz to third. James Loney singled home Cruz. Abreu scored when Adam Kennedy grounded into a fielder's choice to first baseman Joey Votto , who got the force at second before shortstop Cozart's relay throw went past first base to bring home Abreu.
"It's just one of those things where I obviously didn't throw it good at all," Cozart said. "It was a big play. Instead of being down two, we were down three."
The Reds scored their only run on Devin Mesoraco 's fifth homer with one out in the fifth. He sent a 1-0 pitch from Harang into the lower left field seats.
Gordon dislocated his right thumb stealing third in the eighth after he had stolen second. He wore a splint containing ice on his swollen hand after the game and used his left hand to take off his uniform.
"I caught my thumb under the base. It was a weird play," he said. "It felt like I hit something really hard and as soon as I got up I knew I jammed it. That's never happened before. I get stepped on every now and then."
The Dodgers added a run in the eighth on Kennedy's sacrifice fly.
Notes: Dodgers RF Andre Ethier went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 28 with a strained left oblique after missing six straight games. He was batting .291 with 23 doubles, 10 home runs and 55 RBIs in 75 games. ... Dodgers CF Matt Kemp , rehabbing a troublesome left hamstring at Class A Rancho Cucamonga, is expected to return to the lineup on July 13 at home against San Diego. ... Reds 3B Scott Rolen said he saw a chiropractor on Wednesday for his lower back spasms that caused him to miss his fourth straight game. "I've been improving every day, so hopefully in the next couple of days I'll get back in the lineup sometime in San Diego." ... The Dodgers reinstated 2B Mark Ellis from the DL after he hurt his left leg in a May 18 game against St. Louis. He didn't start but came in as a pinch-runner for Gordon and Ellis remained in the game at 2B.