If that was Mike Leake's final turn in the rotation with the Cincinnati Reds, he ended with a flourish.
''Now it's make or break,'' Leake said after throwing eight innings of four-hit ball in a 4-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night. ''I mean, that's either the last start or I'm back. It's three more days until the deadline, and we'll see what happens.''
Leake (9-5) allowed four hits in eight innings to win his fourth straight start. He allowed just two earned runs in his last 30 innings for a 0.60 ERA.
So the asking price might be going up on a player eligible for free agency after the season.
''I've constantly been checking the updates and seeing what's happening,'' Leake said. ''Now I'll go back to doing that, now that I'm not pitching.''
Joey Votto hit a three-run home run in support of the right-hander, helping the Reds win for just the fourth time in 11 games.
Votto is the hottest hitter in the majors since the All-Star break, batting .561 with four homers and nine RBIs. He also walked, singled and doubled, giving him an NL-leading 37 multihit games.
''Well, it would be more satisfying if we were winning more games and we were in the middle of the hunt,'' Votto said. ''So, in a way it's kind of bittersweet.''
Votto has four homers and eight RBIs against the Cardinals, tied for the most among opposing players.
Jaime Garcia (3-4), activated from the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day, made his first start since June 24 and gave up three runs and four hits in six innings. He is 10-3 against the Reds, including 7-1 at home.
''It was a mistake,'' Garcia said of the pitch to Votto. ''You don't take anything away from him, he's one of the best hitters in the game, (but) I've just got to make a better pitch there.''
Garcia held the Reds to one hit before the sixth, when Leake reached on a leadoff single, Brandon Phillips walked with one out and Votto hit his 19th homer, a drive to straightaway center estimated at 418 feet.
Garcia didn't think he missed by much on a 3-2 inside pitch to Phillips that set up the homer.
''From my perspective it was a no-doubt strike,'' the lefty said. ''Once I saw it, it could have gone either way.''
Manager Bryan Price said Votto's second-half stretch has been ''phenomenal because it's not just the base hits. It's been a great run.''
Votto's one-out single in the fourth ended a string of 8 1-3 hitless innings for Garcia counting a rehab start with Triple-A Memphis. Stephen Piscotty singled for St. Louis' first hit with two outs in the fifth.
Cardinals cleanup man Jhonny Peralta is 2 for 20 against Leake after going 0 for 3 against the right-hander.
FEW AND FAR BETWEEN
A win Wednesday would give the Reds just their fourth series win out of 35 played since the 2003 season against the Cardinals. They've dropped nine straight series in St. Louis.
Cardinals: OF Randal Grichuk (groin) sat a second straight day but could be in the lineup Wednesday. RHP Jordan Walden (bicep) was set to begin a rehab with Triple-A Memphis. C Yadier Molina went the distance a day after being replaced in the fifth due to illness.
Rookie Anthony DeSclafani allowed three runs in seven innings and got no decision in a loss at Colorado his last time out. The Reds will recall lefty Mike Holmberg from Triple-A Indianapolis as the replacement starter for Johnny Cueto against the Pirates. St. Louis' John Lackey is 5-1 with a 1.75 ERA his last eight starts.
Link to box score: Cincinnati (44-54) 4 at St. Louis (64-36) 0