CINCINNATI -- The experience of Mike Leake's first Major League loss was similar to being served a dish of liver and lima beans by your new mother-in-law. Just hold your nose and swallow. Defeat No. 1 came Wednesday in Leake's 13th big league start as the Reds were handed a 6-2 loss by the Dodgers. Over six innings, the 22-year-old rookie allowed five earned runs and nine hits with three walks and four strikeouts. "I'm not glad we lost, but I'm glad I finally got my first loss so it's out of the way and we can move on from there," Leake said.
Leake, who advanced from college to the big leagues without a Minor League stop, has little experience with losing. He was 16-1 last season for Arizona State, with his lone blemish coming against Kansas State on March 10, 2009. Over three seasons at ASU, he was 40-6. "You knew he wasn't going to win every game," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. And Baker also knew the salad days of smooth sailing and lots of winning wouldn't be a permanent experience, either. For the first time since April 14-18, the Reds have lost three games in a row. They've also dropped four of their past five games and fell to 3-6 on their 10-game homestand. Cincinnati was still a first-place team, however, as it remained tied with the Cardinals on top of the National League Central. St. Louis, which has also hit hard times of late, lost to the Mariners. Before Wednesday's game, Baker held a closed-door meeting with his position players. The Reds came into the night with one run in their past 17 innings, including being shut out by Los Angeles, 12-0, on Tuesday. "I told my boys to stay together," Baker said. "Nothing remains the same forever. Nothing. Not in good times. Not in bad times. "It's frustrating to lose, but you know you're going to go through periods like this. You can't get down about it. Keep fighting and keep working and realize this is a long season. It's not going to be up all the time. The No. 1 thing is just don't panic." Frustration was rampant as the Reds felt stymied not only by Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw, but also some by controversial umpire calls. On a two-out single to left field in the fifth by Orlando Cabrera, Manny Ramirez threw a strike to the plate, where Ramon Hernandez, trying to score from second base, was called out trying to score from second base by Hunter Wendelstedt. However, it appeared on video replay that catcher Russell Martin missed the tag. Baker and Hernandez argued to no avail. In the sixth with runners on first and second with no outs, Scott Rolen was called out on strikes on what he thought was ball four that would have loaded the bases. Rolen argued and was ejected by Wendelstedt. Baker was also ejected moments later for arguing balls and strikes. "The call we disagreed on, obviously, and I just felt that was a big spot in the game, and a big at-bat. I reacted to that," Rolen said. The Reds settled for one run when Brandon Phillips scored on Jonny Gomes' sacrifice fly. A second run came in the ninth when pinch-hitter Chris Heisey homered to left field. "This team's a good-hitting team so I gave up some hits, but I was able to minimize some damage and we made some plays behind me, so it was a good game for us," said Kershaw, who allowed one run over 7 1/3 innings. The Dodgers had already rolled out to a 5-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning. After four scoreless innings, Leake trailed, 2-0, when he began the sixth by walking Blake DeWitt on four pitches. "It set the tone for that inning," Leake said. "Those are the things I can hold back from happening. In that circumstance, a four-pitch walk was pretty bad." With two outs in the sixth, Martin hit a single and Andre Ethier slugged a 1-0 pitch for a three-run homer to right field. It was Ethier's first homer since coming off the disabled list May 31. "Every outing is a learning experience, whether it's good or bad. It came down to a bad pitch that kind of put it over the top," Leake said. "It was a curveball that went right back over the middle." Leake was already coming off his worst outing when he allowed five runs and a career-high 11 hits over 4 1/3 innings vs. the Giants. He avoided the loss when the Reds came from behind. This time, that didn't happen. Now Leake is 5-1 with 3.02 ERA. "I'm fine. Every pitcher tries to think of situations that they got themselves into," Leake said. "First you think of all the negatives so you get that out of the way. Once you get down on yourself a little bit, then you think about the positives just to pick yourself back up."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.