The Cincinnati Reds may have already clinched a playoff spot, but they have no intention of stopping there.
The Reds hope to gain ground in the NL Central race on Tuesday night, when Mike Leake tries to continue his career-long success versus the New York Mets.
Leake takes the hill for the second contest of this three-game set with his club having already locked up a postseason spot. That came courtesy of a 3-2 victory in 10 innings over the Mets as well as the St. Louis Cardinals' triumph over the Washington Nationals on Monday.
Both the Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates clinched postseason spots and are tied for the two NL wild card spots. They also trail the Cardinals by two games for first place in the division.
Cincinnati hopes Leake can do his part to get the club a win tonight and he is 2-1 lifetime versus the Mets with a 1.31 earned run average in five starts. He held them scoreless over seven innings of three-hit ball to earn a victory on May 21.
Leake also put up zeros in his last trip to the mound, holding Houston scoreless over eight innings to win his third straight start. The right-hander scattered five hits and two walks with six strikeouts and one hit batter, lifted after 105 pitches in the 10-0 decision.
"He possibly could have gone the distance. We thought about it. It's not often you get to throw a complete-game shutout, but we had to look at the big picture. If his pitch count got too high, it's probably going to affect him his next start against the Mets," noted Reds manager Dusty Baker.
The 25-year-old Leake is 14-6 with a 3.21 ERA over 10 starts this season and will try to pitch the Reds to their seventh victory in eight games tonight.
Cincinnati picked up the postseason-clinching win when Shin-Soo Choo singled home a walk-off run in the 10th inning. Choo, who had missed the previous two games with a left thumb injury, had been stranded at third the previous inning before driving in his second run of the contest. He also stole two bases.
"It wasn't very pretty, but we won. We had a bunch of chances, left a lot of men on base. ... We kept threatening and threatening. Like I always say, pressure busts the pipe. If you keep that pressure on them, sooner or later you are going to score," said Baker.
Lucas Duda drove in both runs for the Mets, hitting a game-tying solo homer in the sixth. Still, New York had a three-game win streak halted.
"We played them tough. We just couldn't muster up enough runs. But we played them very, very well," said Mets manager Terry Collins.
Jon Niese gets the call for New York looking to even his season record. He is 7-8 with a 3.81 ERA in 22 starts following a tough-luck 2-1 setback to San Francisco on Thursday.
The lefty yielded both runs over seven innings, marking the fifth time in his last seven starts he allowed two runs or fewer.
"It's a tough one," said Niese. "(Catcher) Travis d'Arnaud and I did a good job of staying on the same page. Unfortunately we came up short."
Niese, 26, lost to the Reds and Leake on May 21, charged with three unearned runs while striking out seven over six innings. He fell to 1-3 lifetime versus Cincinnati with a 4.55 ERA in five starts.
The Reds have won 10 of their last 12 versus the Mets, sweeping a three-game set in New York from May 20-22.