The Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates aren't separated by much in an NL Central division that is one of the strongest in baseball.
Given how well Mike Leake has pitched of late, he may be able to help the Reds provide more distance between the clubs in the opener of a four-game series with the visiting Pirates on Monday night.
Cincinnati (42-28) and Pittsburgh (41-28) trail major league-best St. Louis (44-25) in a division that could end up providing the NL with half of its postseason qualifiers by season's end.
The defending Central champion Reds have won five of seven after beating Milwaukee 5-1 on Sunday. Jay Bruce, who is hitting .407 over his last six, homered for the second time in three days.
Bruce, though, is just 5 for 48 (.104) with 18 strikeouts in his las 12 games versus the Pirates.
Shin-Soo Choo has hit safely in his last five, but manager Dusty Baker gave him Sunday off. He'll likely be back in the lineup versus the Pirates.
"I just told him to stay in and rest s...