CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds got a gutsy effort from Mike Leake, and Joey Votto took care of the rest.
Votto hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning to help Leake and the Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 5-3 on Sunday.
Votto connected on Ryan Dempster’s first pitch after he was visited by manager Lou Piniella. The two-out drive was Votto’s seventh of the season and handed the decision to Leake, who wasn’t feeling well but managed to hold the Cubs hitless until the sixth and finished with seven solid innings.
“I didn’t feel the strength today,” Leake said. “I felt a little achy going into last night, and I tried to get some rest last night, but I didn’t sleep real well. I was going to pitch. I was going to go as many innings as I could and see what happened.”
Jonny Gomes and Drew Stubbs each drove in a run as the Reds capped a 4-2 homestand with their third win in four games.
Tyler Colvin hit a two-run homer in the seventh to give Chicago a 3-2 lead, but the Cubs still stumbled to their fourth loss in five games.
“Things aren’t pretty right now,” Dempster said.
Ramon Hernandez led off the Cincinnati seventh with a double but was thrown out at third on Leake’s sacrifice attempt. Leake advanced on Orlando Cabrera’s single before being replaced by pinch-runner Chris Heisey. Brandon Phillips bounced into a fielder’s choice, but Votto followed with his second homer in two games, a long drive to right off a backdoor slider.
“Did I guess right?” Votto said, echoing a question. “I try not to guess too much up there. I got a good pitch to hit.”
Dempster (2-3) realized Piniella might be criticized for leaving him in the game.
“He doesn’t deserve heat,” Dempster said. “I felt good. I’ll take my chances against anybody at any time. I just didn’t execute the pitch. I got beat by the guy you don’t want to let beat you. I was honest with him. I felt good. I put the pitch in the poor spot. I like my chances there against him as good as anyone’s.”
Said Piniella: “If he’d told me he was tired, I would have taken him out. He was throwing the ball well. The guy hit it out of the ballpark. What are you going to do? The kid’s a pretty good hitter. It didn’t work.”
Nick Masset worked the eighth and Francisco Cordero finished for his 10th save in 12 opportunities.
Leake (3-0), who made his major league debut against the Cubs on April 11 without spending a day in the minors, retired the first 10 batters he faced — five on strikeouts — before walking Kosuke Fukudome with one out in the fourth. Derrek Lee promptly grounded into an inning-ending double play.
“He’s a little dude with a big, old heart,” manager Dusty Baker said of Leake, generously listed as 6-foot-1 on the roster. “His heart’s 6-6.”
Starlin Castro, who made his major league debut on Friday, led off the sixth with the Cubs’ first hit, barely beating out a sharp grounder up the middle. Phillips’ throw from second base just missed nipping Castro.
Chicago finally got to Leake with two out in the seventh. Marlon Byrd doubled, moved to third on Aramis Ramirez’s infield single and scored on a wild pitch. Colvin then hit a drive to right for his fourth homer.
Leake, the eighth overall selection in the 2009 draft, allowed four hits, struck out six and walked one.
“It’s my first time facing a second lineup — a big league lineup,” he said. “Every outing’s a test. It’s just going out there and pitching your game instead of trying to overpower them.”
Jay Bruce and Gomes led off the second inning with back-to-back doubles to give Cincinnati a 1-0 lead. Gomes stole third and scored on Stubbs’ grounder to shortstop.
Dempster (2-3) gave up five runs and six hits in seven innings. He struck out seven and walked three.
NOTES: The Reds’ 14-2 win on Saturday was their largest margin of victory in a game since they beat the Mariners 16-1 at Seattle on June 22, 2007. … Dempster, who pitched for the Reds at Great American Ball Park in 2003, is 0-7 in 27 appearances at the facility.