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CIN@SF: Leake strikes out a career-high 12 batters

SAN FRANCISCO -- Reds starting pitcher Mike Leake generally likes to put the ball in play and let his defense do the work. In a pitcher-friendly place like AT&T Park, it's often a good formula for success.

Except on Thursday, Leake worked against his type -- way against. Instead, he established a career high with 12 strikeouts over eight innings as the Reds claimed a 3-1 victory over the Giants.

"It doesn't feel like that many, but at this level, I guess it's a pretty good accomplishment. They come and go. I'm not huge on strikeouts," said Leake, who threw 109 pitches -- an efficient number considering the strikeout total.

San Francisco notched only four hits and one walk vs. Leake -- with his only run allowed being Adam Duvall's first big league hit for a home run in the seventh inning. Leake's previous strikeout high was eight, which he accomplished five times.

"I see more of the eight innings and one run than I see the 12 strikeouts because I think that's more of an anomaly," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It's not really the type of pitcher he is. I don't think that was a goal that he set today coming in."

But Price certainly will take the strikeouts, too. "Oh, we'll absolutely take it," he replied. "With a 'W' at the end of the day, all of the other stuff is peripheral."

The W's have been coming in bunches of late for Cincinnati, which has won five of its last six games and eight of 11. The club improved to 40-38 to move two games above a .500 record for the first time this season. It's a particularly opportune time for a hot club to face a first-place team, as the reeling Giants have lost 12 of their last 16 games.

"Our pitching has been carrying us all year, so it's nice to finally start combining the two and getting some results," said Reds right fielder Jay Bruce of a revitalized offense. Bruce himself was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored.

It was a scoreless game between Leake and Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong until the fifth inning. Bruce extended his hitting streak to a season-high seven games by rolling a one-out single to right field. With two outs, Zack Cozart pulled a double to the left-field corner, with Bruce motoring home from first base to score ahead of a great relay throw to the plate.

In the sixth inning, Billy Hamilton tried a daring play and had it backfire. Runners were on the corners with one out when Devin Mesoraco lofted a routine pop fly on the edge of the dirt by second base. Hamilton tagged up and tried scoring, but was nailed at the plate for the double play.

At one point, Leake retired a stretch of nine in a row and 15 of 16 batters. He didn't set out with a game plan to rack up strikeouts, but they were coming anyway.

"Mix and match, I guess just getting more swing and misses today than normal," Leake said. "A lot of teams tend to foul me off -- they tend to foul me off. But I guess I was kind of missing bats a little better today."

Leake had to dodge danger in the bottom of the sixth. Hunter Pence hit a two-out triple before Buster Posey walked. In a full count vs. Pablo Sandoval, Leake recorded his eighth strikeout when he fanned him on a 91 mph fastball to end the threat.

As Leake walked off the mound, he pumped his fist, clearly wanting that particular strikeout. Sandoval entered the game 11-for-17 (.647) lifetime vs. Leake.

"He's hit me well his whole career, it definitely felt good to get out of that jam and get out of there without any runs against," Leake said.

Against reliever Jean Machi in the seventh, Brandon Phillips hit a first pitch into the left-field seats for a home run. Phillips, who missed the previous three games with a bruised right heel, ended Machi's scoreless streak at 25 1/3 innings. Bruce extended another streak when his ground-rule double down the right-field line gave him an extra-base hit in seven straight games. Bruce scored on Ryan Ludwick's RBI single up the middle for a three-run lead.

After the Duvall homer in the seventh, Leake retired his final five batters with three strikeouts. That included fanning Pence with his 109th and last pitch -- an off-speed pitch that Pence missed badly.

Price pinch-hit for Leake in the top of the ninth and asked Aroldis Chapman to close the game. Chapman gave up a Posey leadoff double, but notched his 15th save.

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