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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, July 19th (All times Eastern)

Arizona Diamondbacks (44-47) at Cincinnati Reds (51-40), 12:35 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Arizona - Joe Saunders (4-6, 3.52) Cincinnati - Mike Leake (3-6, 3.96)

(Sports Network) - Righty Mike Leake aims for a sixth consecutive quality start today when the Cincinnati Reds face the Arizona Diamondbacks in the finale of a four-game series at Great American Ball Park.

Leake, who won a career-high 12 games in his second big-league season last year, was just 2-5 through his initial 12 starts of 2012 with an earned run average of 5.05.

He's pitched at least six innings and given up three earned runs or less in each of his last five, though, including a six-inning stint against St. Louis on July 14 in a game the Reds won, 3-2.

Leake has split a pair of decisions during the solid streak, but has seen his ERA drop to 3.96.

He's faced Arizona twice in his career and is 1-0 with a 6.94 ERA after allowing nine runs and 13 hits in 11 2/3 innings.

The Diamondbacks pulled ahead in the series on Wednesday, when Jason Kubel returned to hit two home runs and Ian Kennedy struck out seven in eight innings of a 7-1 triumph.

Arizona gave Cincinnati starter Mat Latos his first loss in exactly three months after knocking the righty around for five runs in just 4 2/3 innings.

Kubel, who was dealing with a tight hamstring, hit home runs off Latos (7-3) in his first two at-bats since Saturday, a two-run blast in the first inning and a leadoff shot in the fourth.

"I wasn't concerned about it," Kubel said.

The Diamondbacks had scored just eight runs in their previous five games prior to Wednesday.

Kennedy (7-8) was much better than he needed to be, allowing a run on eight hits without walking a batter to go 3-0 in his three career starts against the Reds.

He has struck out 47 and walked only seven in his last eight games.

Latos hadn't lost since April 18 at St. Louis, going 7-0 in 15 starts. But he allowed six hits and two walks with three strikeouts in this one and has given up seven runs in 9 2/3 innings in his last two outings.

The Reds gave up sole possession of first place in the National League's Central Division when Pittsburgh beat Colorado, 9-6. The teams share a 4 1/2- game lead over defending World Series champion St. Louis.

Today, Arizona starts 31-year-old lefty Joe Saunders, who's lost his last two starts around the All-Star break and a stint on the 15-day disabled list.

The Virginia native was 4-4 on the season before dropping a 2-0 decision to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and, through the combination of injury and midseason break, didn't pitch again until a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on July 14.

He's not won since a 4-3 decision over Oakland on June 10, but has allowed three earned runs or less in five straight starts.

Saunders is 0-2 in three career starts against the Reds.

Arizona won two of three from the Reds in an April series in Phoenix, then won another two of three the following week in Cincinnati. The Reds won the 2011 season series, 4-2.

07/19 10:28:31 ET