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Reds can't solve Eovaldi; rally in ninth falls short

Blanked for eight, Cincy puts go-ahead run on; Leake solid for seven

CINCINNATI -- Facing the same team in back-to-back games is supposed to give pitchers nightmares.

Cincinnati's Mike Leake made it look easy. Miami's Nathan Eovaldi made it look even easier.

Eovaldi scattered five hits over eight shutout innings in a 2-1 Marlins win over the Reds in the opener of a three-game series on Friday night. Eovaldi limited Cincinnati to two hits and one run in seven innings in a 2-1, 10-inning Marlins victory last Saturday.

"He throws hard," said Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart, who struck out against Steve Cishek with runners on the corners to end the game. "That's my impression. He's throwing 99 [mph] in the eighth. He's got a good fastball. You don't see many starters throwing 98 in the eighth too often."

Jarrod Saltalamacchia produced a sixth-inning sacrifice fly before Giancarlo Stanton smacked his National League-leading 28th home run of the season for the Marlins. Stanton's two-out, seventh-inning shot sailed 437 feet into the second level in left field.

"It was a bad slider," Leake said. "This is going to sound bad, but I'll take a solo homer. I was more angry about the pitch. He's strong. If he gets any wood on the ball, he's going to hit it hard."

Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco led off the ninth with back-to-back doubles, allowing the Reds to avoid their 11th shutout, which would have matched last season's total. Mesoraco reached third on a sacrifice bunt, but Skip Schumaker's sharp one-hopper up the middle against a drawn-in Marlins infield was flagged down on a diving stop by shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who looked Mesoraco back to third before throwing to first.

"That was huge, not only to make sure it didn't get through, but to get the out, also," Saltalamacchia said. "That saved the game, obviously."

The Reds' offense wasn't helped by losing its hottest hitter, catcher-turned-first baseman Brayan Pena, who left the game after the second inning with what was described by the club as a tight left hamstring. He was removed for precautionary reasons, the team announced.

"He had a little bit of tightness [Thursday]," manager Bryan Price said. "It didn't seem like it was a problem going into today, but we didn't want it to blow up. He's probably good to go tomorrow."

Much like the Cleveland Indians, who hit several balls hard to no avail early in Thursday's game against Homer Bailey, the Marlins threatened in each of their first three innings against Leake. Miami got runners into scoring position in each of the innings, but Leake wiggled off the hook each time.

"I was just trying to keep the ball down and minimize the damage," Leake said. "They got some guys on base, but I was able to minimize them crossing the plate."

Leake (9-10) allowed five hits and two runs with four walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings to the team he held to three hits and one run in six innings of a 7-3 Reds win last Sunday.

"It's not ideal," he said about facing the same team in consecutive starts. "You've got to have a backup plan. I thought I did a pretty good job."

"You have to acknowledge the job Mike did," Price said. "He gave us seven strong innings, and going back to back against the same team ... that's hard to do. Eovaldi was just as good."

The Reds couldn't get any runners to third base against Eovaldi (6-6), and they didn't get a runner to second base until the sixth inning. Eovaldi finished with six strikeouts and one walk.

"Huge, huge win," Saltalamacchia said. "You face a lineup like that at any point can tie a game up. Nate did an awesome job pounding the strike zone."

Mark Schmetzer is a contributor to
Read More: Cincinnati Reds, Mike Leake, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier