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LIVE: Cubs trailing Reds on CSN

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LIVE: Cubs trailing Reds on CSN

Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011
Posted: 8:54 a.m.

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(AP) -- Last week in Chicago, Cincinnati's Mike Leake was one out away from completing a one-hitter and his first career shutout when it all suddenly fell apart.

At least he doesn't have to wait until next season for a chance at redemption.

Likely making his final start of the year, Leake looks to exact some revenge Tuesday night against the same Cubs team that spoiled his gem.

At Wrigley Field last Tuesday, Leake had allowed only three baserunners - including one hit on Alfonso Soriano's second-inning single - when Starlin Castro came up with two outs in the ninth and the Reds leading 2-0.

Castro gave the Cubs life with an infield single and pinch-hitter Bryan LaHair followed with a game-tying home run. Leake got Aramis Ramirez to fly out, and walked to the dugout having thrown a career-high nine innings with nothing to show for it, although Cincinnati (71-76) won 4-2 in 13 innings.

"You hate to get two outs and it be the last at-bat. It got to me," Leake told the Reds' official website. "I'm glad we came back, or else I would have been wearing it even more."

It likely would have left an even worse taste in his mouth had that been his last start of the year.

Prior to the game, Dusty Baker said he wasn't sure if Leake would make another start. A day after watching the near-masterpiece, the manager decided he didn't want his 23-year-old right-hander's season to end like that.

Leake has thrown 167 innings between the Reds and Triple-A Louisville this season after throwing 138 1-3 last year as a rookie.

Although Cincinnati is concerned with his health for the future, Leake has looked strong lately. In 10 starts since the All-Star break, he has a 3.60 ERA while going at least six innings in each. He was extremely efficient against Chicago, needing only 65 pitches to get through seven innings and finishing with 91.

Leake has always pitched well against the Cubs, going 3-1 with a 2.95 ERA in six outings - all quality starts. He has shut down some of their top hitters, limiting Ramirez, Soriano and Geovany Soto to a combined four hits in 37 at-bats.

Those three all contributed in Chicago's 12-8 win in Monday's series opener. Ramirez had three hits - including a double and his 25th homer - Soriano went 2 for 5 with three RBIs and Soto drove in two. Castro also homered, scored four runs and drove in three while extending his career-high hitting streak to 13 games.

The Cubs (65-82) have won three in a row and six of eight, while the Reds have lost three in a row and 10 of 14.

Brandon Phillips hit two homers Monday after failing to go deep in his previous 20 games, but could have trouble against scheduled starter Ryan Dempster (10-11, 4.74), against whom he is batting .182 (6 for 33) lifetime.

Dempster gave up three runs and 10 hits in six-plus innings of Wednesday's 6-3 win over the Reds, but didn't get a decision. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 5.64 ERA in his last four starts after going 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA in the previous four.

He is 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA in four starts against the Reds this season.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: