With Mike Minor's return to the Atlanta Braves slated for next week, David Hale is likely preparing for his last turn in the rotation before heading to the bullpen or Triple-A Gwinnett.
He'll try to make the most of the spotlight Saturday night at home against Mike Leake as the Braves continue a weekend series with the Cincinnati Reds, who could be without their hottest hitter.
Hale (0-0, 2.93 ERA) hasn't been as untouchable as the rest of the surprising Atlanta starters, but he's kept the Braves (15-7) in games as they've awaited Minor's return from left shoulder tightness. Hale yielded three runs in six innings of Sunday's 4-3 loss to the New York Mets.
The rotation as a whole has been outstanding with an MLB-best 1.68 ERA, though it allowed over three earned runs for the first time in Friday's 5-4 win.
The Braves, who have won 10 of 13, jumped out to a 5-0 lead through three innings on Justin Upton's three-run homer before the Reds got to Ervin Santana for four in the sixth and seventh.
"We've seen him do this before and carry us for a while," said manager Fredi Gonzalez of Upton, who leads the team with six home runs and 15 RBIs.
The Braves, in the midst of playing 15 of 18 at Turner Field, are off to an MLB-best 7-3 start there after finishing 2013 with baseball's best home record at 56-25.
The Reds (11-12) saw a three-game winning streak snapped and are 5-3 as a 10-game road trip nears its end.
Cincinnati catcher Devin Mesoraco, batting .468, strained his left hamstring in the seventh and was removed from the game, as was third baseman Todd Frazier in the fifth with tightness in his left leg. The fear is Mesoraco could be headed back to the disabled list after beginning the season there with a strained oblique.
"The severity is it could be significant or it could be something that's a couple or three days," manager Bryan Price said. "We'll see. I think we'll have more news for you tomorrow."
After consecutive victories, Leake (2-1, 3.49) settled for a no-decision in Monday's 6-5 loss at Pittsburgh after allowing four runs and eight hits in seven innings. All the damage came on an Ike Davis grand slam, and Leake thought even that pitch, which broke Davis' bat, wasn't a poor one.
"I thought I pitched pretty well, even the pitch I got hurt on with Ike was a good pitch," Leake said.
Leake allowed identical numbers in his only start against the Braves last season and owns a 2-1 record and 2.33 ERA in his career against them.
Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla is 4 for 10 with three home runs off Leake while first baseman Freddie Freeman is hitless in eight at-bats.
Freeman went 3 for 4 on Friday to break out of an 0-for-12 stretch in his previous three. He's batting .393 with eight RBIs in seven games against the Reds since the start of 2013.
Reds right fielder Jay Bruce is batting .400 during an eight-game hitting streak at Turner Field.
The Reds have gone five games in a row without a home run. It's been 344 games, including the postseason, since they last went six straight from April 9-14, 2012.