Leake battles control in road start vs. Astros

March 21st, 2017
Mike Leake walked the leadoff batter in three consecutive innings, a rarity for the right-hander, on Monday night. (AP)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Road warrior Mike Leake battled rare control problems in the Cardinals' 12-6 win against the Astros on Monday night. All five of Leake's starts this spring have been on the road, but he struggled at his home away from home.

Making his second start at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, Leake gave up four runs on five hits and issued three walks over five innings. His previous outing here was much better, a 7-1 win over the Nationals, in which Leake threw four innings of one-hit ball. He struck out two without issuing a walk in that outing.

But on Monday, Leake walked the leadoff batter in three consecutive innings, a rarity for the right-hander. Last season, Leake went the entire month of July without issuing a free pass in 30 innings. His career-long 36-inning streak without allowing a walk was the second-longest in the Majors last year behind the Angels' (39 1/3).

Still it wasn't an area of concern for Leake, who continues to work on things this spring.

"I'm not concerned at all," Leake said. "As I fine tune, I think it will go back to normal."

Three double plays turned by the Cardinals' defense helped Leake from further damage.

"It's nice to be able to get two outs with one swing," Leake said. "Especially when you're getting guys on base early. It's nice to turn a double play to get out of it."

But Leake couldn't escape a three-run third inning, as the Astros tagged him for three runs and three hits before he could record an out.

Leake never really got into a groove, giving up a double and single to the first two batters he faced. He did, however, get Astros second baseman to ground into a double play. A run scored on the play, but it still helped Leake get out of the inning with minimal damage.

Leake threw 77 pitches, including 45 for strikes.

Leake also batted in the ninth spot rather than the Cards using a DH. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a groundout, but his 84 career hits in the regular season since his 2010 debut are most among Major League pitchers, while his .203 batting average is second in the Majors among pitchers behind Zack Greinke (.218).

Worth noting

was scratched from Monday night's game due to illness. The outfielder, who signed a free-agent deal with the Cardinals in December, has been scorching at the plate with a.360 average in 25 at-bats.