Matched against an elite big-game pitcher in an electric atmosphere overloaded with emotion from toxic comments by teammate Brandon Phillips and the surprise arrival of Jim Edmonds, Reds rookie Mike Leake unraveled versus the Cardinals.
On Aug. 9, 2010, Reds manager Dusty Baker gave Leake the start in the opener of a showdown series against the Cardinals at Cincinnati. St. Louis manager Tony La Russa countered with an ace, Chris Carpenter.
After a scoreless duel for three innings, Leake cracked. He yielded seven runs in the fourth and became unnerved, losing track of the number of outs and heading toward the dugout before being sent back to the mound.
Emboldened, the Cardinals won the game, swept the series and overtook the Reds for first place in the National League Central Division.
Leake rebounded from that embarrassment. He posted a 64-52 record and 3.88 ERA in six years with the Reds and Giants. On Dec. 22, 2015, Leake, a free agent, signed with the Cardinals.
Queen City drama
In 2010, the Reds were seeking their first NL Central title in 15 years. On the morning of Aug. 9, they held a two-game lead over the second-place Cardinals entering a three-game series against them.
The tension between the division rivals, already high, was intensified that day by two developments:
_ Reds general manager Walt Jocketty acquired Edmonds from the Brewers for outfielder Chris Dickerson.
Jocketty had won two NL pennants and a World Series title as Cardinals general manager before he was fired after the 2007 season. Edmonds had been the Cardinals’ center fielder and a slugger on those championship clubs, then was traded after Jocketty departed.
Edmonds joined four other former Cardinals _ third baseman Scott Rolen, infielder Miguel Cairo and pitchers Russ Springer and Mike Lincoln _ on the Reds.
_ In an interview with Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, Phillips lit into the Cardinals. McCoy posted the comments online before the game and the Cardinals read the remarks.
Said Phillips of the Cardinals: “All they do is bitch and moan about everything, all of them. They’re little bitches … I really hate the Cardinals. Compared to the Cardinals, I love the Chicago Cubs. Let me make this clear: I hate the Cardinals.”
Baker started a lineup that night with Phillips in the leadoff spot, Rolen at cleanup and Edmonds, in his Reds debut, batting fifth.
The Cardinals focused on trying to lay off Leake’s sinker and get him to deliver pitches up in the strike zone.
In the fourth, that strategy paid dividends.
The first six Cardinals batters that inning produced six hits and six runs on 12 pitches.
Jon Jay doubled and Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus and Yadier Molina each singled. The hits by Holliday and Rasmus each drove in a run. Molina’s single loaded the bases for Skip Schumaker, who was playing his first game since spraining his left wrist Aug. 3.
Leake’s first pitch to Schumaker was on the outside corner. Schumaker swung and drove the ball 408 feet over the wall in left-center field for his first career grand slam, giving St. Louis a 6-0 lead. Video
Dazed and confused
“They got six in a span of 12 pitches,” Baker said to the Associated Press. “It happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to get anybody warmed up.”
After Schumaker’s slam, Leake struck out Carpenter and Brendan Ryan, then jogged off the mound and was at the foul line before he realized there were two outs, not three.
Leake returned to the mound and pitched to Felipe Lopez, who singled. That’s when Baker lifted Leake. Reliever Carlos Fisher walked Jay and yielded a single to Pujols, scoring Lopez. That run was charged to Leake, whose final line showed seven runs allowed in 3.2 innings.
In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joe Strauss wrote, “The Cards perfectly executed an early attack against Leake … They noticed a flattening of Leake’s assortment in his previous start and adopted a very aggressive tact.”
Said Schumaker: “That was the game plan from the very beginning. He’s a strike thrower. He gets a lot of groundballs. He’s very effective and he knows how to pitch.”
The Cardinals won, 7-3, and moved within a game of the Reds. Boxscore
Phillips was 0-for-5. Edmonds and Rolen also were hitless.
“I’m guessing Phillips really hated seeing Schumaker hit the grand slam, a massive hit that wasn’t very Cubs-like,” wrote Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz.
Said Schumaker: “I didn’t know we had bad blood. They can talk. We’ll leave our comments to ourselves.”
The next night, Aug. 10, Phillips sparked a brawl between the teams when, in the batter’s box, he used his bat to tap Molina’s shin guards. Molina responded angrily, both benches emptied and the fight carried to the backstop.
Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto kicked Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue in the head and he also kicked Carpenter in the back. Baker and La Russa were ejected.
The Cardinals won that game, 8-4, and moved into a tie with the Reds for first place. Boxscore
On Aug. 11, the Cardinals completed the sweep with a 6-1 triumph. Rasmus hit a grand slam off Bronson Arroyo, Adam Wainwright pitched seven shutout innings and the Cardinals had first place to themselves.
The Reds, though, recovered and went on to win the division title, finishing five games ahead of the runner-up Cardinals.