LeCure wins debut with help from friends

LeCure wins debut with help from friends

CINCINNATI -- Years from now, pitcher Sam LeCure will certainly have little trouble remembering the joy of getting his first Major League victory.

But the real memory tester will be recalling all of the hitters that backed him. That can happen after a 15-6 thumping of the Astros on Friday where there was no shortage of offensive stars.

"We wanted the young man to get his feet on the ground, go deep into the ballgame, and we gave him a pretty good cushion," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We had a high-octane offense tonight."

The list of big helpers started with Jonny Gomes, who was 4-for-4 and a double short of hitting for the cycle. Brandon Phillips had three hits and three RBIs. Miguel Cairo had three hits. And so on. With the exception of Jay Bruce, every position player had at least one hit, and even Drew Sutton contributed his first career grand slam while pinch-hitting for LeCure in the bottom of the sixth.

And with the first victory comes the spoils -- or good-natured abuse. LeCure was treated by teammates with the ubiquitous shaving cream pies in the face during an on-field TV interview, and there was more waiting for him inside the Reds clubhouse.

"They made me sit down in the shower in my uniform and they poured beer all over me," said LeCure, who left tickets for 30 members of his family. "I got quite a bit of Pert Plus in my eyes. But it's pretty cool. Any time that you're able to not just get to the big leagues, but get a win, and it's against the team in your division, it's a big night for everybody."

LeCure (1-0) allowed two runs and six hits with four walks and five strikeouts over six innings. He started his big league career by getting Michael Bourn looking on strike three, and two batters later he gave up his first homer to Hunter Pence, who hit a two-out solo shot to right-center field.

The Reds were leading, 2-1, when the Astros put together three consecutive hits to open the top of the third, including Pence's RBI single. Lance Berkman was intentionally walked to load the bases, and LeCure got the next batter, Pedro Feliz, to ground to third baseman Scott Rolen, who turned the inning-ending double play.

"That was a big pitch there," LeCure said. "It's always nice to make the manager look smart for the intentional walk. I was able to make a good pitch to Feliz there. Scotty made a nice play getting to that ball, and we kind of rolled from there."

With two outs in the Reds' first inning against Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (2-7), Phillips hit a 1-0 pitch over the center-field fence for his seventh homer of the season. After Rolen's infield hit, Gomes drove a RBI triple off the right-field wall for a 2-1 Reds lead.

In the third, with Rolen on second base after an RBI double, Gomes sent Rodriguez's 2-1 pitch into the first row of left-field seats for a two-run homer -- his seventh of the season.

"The innings that I gave up runs, we came back and put up a crooked number that same inning," LeCure said. "It makes you feel pretty good."

Cincinnati sent nine to the plate in the three-run fourth, and it became a blowout in the six-run Reds sixth when Sutton batted for LeCure and hit the left-field foul pole with Tim Byrdak's 2-0 pitch for the slam and a 14-2 lead.

"Well, it got out of hand in a hurry," said Astros manager Brad Mills, who tried to preserve his bullpen by using backup catcher Kevin Cash to pitch the bottom of the eighth. "They got some big knocks, and we got some runners on early and weren't really able to put a big one together. It would have been nice to put a crooked number up ourselves early."

LeCure was lifted for Sutton, even after he struck out the side in the top of the sixth and was at 98 pitches.

"He was throwing better at the end there," Baker said. "In the Minor Leagues, I think the most he'd gone was 105 pitches. He was at his former limit."

The Reds, who just took three of four from the Pirates, are getting another struggling club in the Astros. Houston's 16-32 record is the worst start in the franchise's history.

Meanwhile, the Reds are nine games over .500 at 29-20 and maintained their one-game lead over the Cardinals for first place in the National League Central. Perhaps in a sign the fans are sensing momentum, there was a walk-up crowd of 6,500 among the 30,813 at Great American Ball Park.

"Our guys respond to big crowds," Baker said. "It seems like we play better in front of big crowds. Just keep playing, keep winning and they will come."

If nothing else, LeCure did his part to keep the Reds rotation on a very nice roll. The starting staff is 9-0 with a 2.82 ERA in 14 games since May 14.

"As much as you try, you can't really prepare yourself from the flood of emotions you're going to get," LeCure said of his debut. "After the first little bit, I was able to lock in and get down to business."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.