Minor, Leake look to reverse fortunes

Hitters could have their way Monday night in Cincinnati when a pair of struggling starters take the mound for Monday Night Baseball (7 ET on ESPN).

The Atlanta Braves are hoping Mike Minor can avoid making history. Minor has allowed at least six earned runs in four straight starts, the longest streak in the majors since Kenny Rogers in 2008 and tied with Rosy Ryan of the 1925-26 Boston Braves for the longest streak in franchise history.

Minor was 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA through his first four starts of the season, but his ERA has jumped to 7.09 after being roughed up in each of his past four outings.

Mike Minor Fastball This Season

Minor’s reversal of fortune can be tied to his fastball, which has been ineffective in his past four starts. Over that span, opponents are hitting .339 with six home runs against Minor’s heater after batting .277 with no homers in his first four starts of the season.

But the Cincinnati Reds will send their own slumping starter to the mound Monday.

After going 12-9 with a 3.86 ERA in 2011, Mike Leake has lost his first five decisions in 2012 and brings a 6.21 ERA into Monday’s start. With a loss Monday, Leake would become the fourth Reds pitcher to start a season 0-6 in the last 15 years, joining Dontrelle Willis (2011), Homer Bailey (2008) and Brian Reith (2001).

And while Minor is having major issues with his fastball, it’s the changeup that is giving Leake the most trouble. Opponents have nine hits in 17 at-bats ending in a Leake changeup this season, including five extra-base hits.

Only Luke Hochevar (.600) and Aaron Harang (.556) are allowing hitters a higher batting average among qualifiers than Leake (.529) on changeups this season.

Leake has pitched well against the Braves in limited opportunities, however. He has a 1.50 ERA in two career starts against Atlanta with eight strikeouts and four walks. If Leake can fix his off-speed issues, he could lead the Reds to their eighth win in their last 11 home games in the series.