CINCINNATI — The last-minute Reds made it look so easy again.
Brandon Phillips' fourth hit, a two-run triple off nearly perfect reliever Guillermo Mota in the eighth inning, rallied Cincinnati to yet another late win on Thursday, 7-6 over the San Francisco Giants.
"I don't know if you expect it, but I know everybody believes, from the players to the administrative assistants to the grounds crew," Manager Dusty Baker said. "Don't turn off the TV if we've still got bats in our hands."
The Reds lead the majors with 12 wins in their final at-bat. They've got 21 comeback wins — out of 35 victories overall — which also is the best around.
"You can't give up on us," said rookie starter Mike Leake, who got the benefit of this turnaround. "We're a pretty good team."
Especially when things look really dire.
Mota (0-2) had allowed only three runs all season. He opened the eighth by giving up a single and a double, then went to a full count before Phillips hit an opposite-field triple, tying it at 6. Joey Votto then singled up the middle — Mota misjudged the bouncing ball — for the winning hit.
"I should have gotten that ball," Mota said. "If I get that ball, we're still playing now — it's a tied game."
Left-hander Arthur Rhodes (2-1) retired five batters, his longest appearance in two years, for the win. Francisco Cordero retired the side in the ninth, getting his 17th save in 21 tries.
The Reds opened a 1½ -game lead over idle St. Louis in the NL Central, the latest in a season that Cincinnati has been in first place since June 17, 2002. The Reds finished 78-84 that year under Manager Bob Boone.
Cincinnati has a streak of nine straight losing seasons, its longest in more than a half-century.
The Reds' latest comeback settled a wild game of wasted chances and pitching surprises. San Francisco grounded into three double plays with the bases loaded, and had another runner caught in a rundown between third and home after a botched squeeze play.
"You can't have tougher luck than we had today," Giants Manager Bruce Bochy said. "They got balls to go through. We hit balls a lot harder and got double plays."
The Giants also lost starter Todd Wellemeyer, who hasn't won on the road since May 27, 2009, with St. Louis. The Giants handed him his best chance yet — a 4-0 lead in the top of the third inning — but he hurt himself trying to add to it.
Wellemeyer grounded into a bases-loaded double play in the third, straining to try to beat the relay to first base. He hurt his right thigh and pulled up after crossing the base, then left the game. He could barely lift his leg afterward, an indication he's likely headed for the disabled list.
"I felt good, too," said Wellemeyer, a Louisville native who had 44 friends and relatives in the ballpark. "It's just going to be another hurdle to get over."
Summoned on a moment's notice, Denny Bautista had a tough time getting going, giving up four runs in the bottom of the third. Cincinnati used a pair of walks and two infield hits while batting around.
Leake was in line for his first big-league loss until the majors' last-minute team went at it again.
Leake's 12th career start was his roughest. The right-hander with the nasty curve gave up a career-high 11 hits and five runs in only 41⁄3 innings. It was the shortest appearance by Leake, whose five wins are tied for most wins by an NL rookie.
"I made more mistakes than I wanted to," Leake said. "It reminded me of UCLA. I gave up 11 runs to UCLA once, and they didn't hit the ball hard a lot, either."
Aaron Rowand and Aubrey Huff homered off Leake, but the Giants couldn't take advantage of those three straight bases-loaded chances.