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Leake deals shutdown hand to Nats

MLB.com

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Mike Leake tossed four strong innings and was backed by his teammates' bats Friday as the Cardinals defeated the Nationals, 7-1, at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

In his third Grapefruit League start, Leake allowed only one hit -- a solo home run by Bryce Harper -- and logged his second consecutive four-inning stint that included two strikeouts and no walks.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Mike Leake tossed four strong innings and was backed by his teammates' bats Friday as the Cardinals defeated the Nationals, 7-1, at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

In his third Grapefruit League start, Leake allowed only one hit -- a solo home run by Bryce Harper -- and logged his second consecutive four-inning stint that included two strikeouts and no walks.

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"It's going in a direction I love, so I'd like to keep it going," Leake said of his Grapefruit League season. "This year, I think I can say this is the most mature I've felt in my whole career."

The Cardinals grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the third when they loaded the bases against Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez on back-to-back singles by Eric Fryer and Dexter Fowler and a four-pitch walk to Kolten Wong. Jhonny Peralta then lofted a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Fryer. It was the first run that Gonzalez has allowed in three outings this spring.

Gonzalez called it a day after three innings, allowing one run on four hits with four strikeouts. He threw 51 pitches, 32 for strikes.

"All in all, I take it as a positive outing," Gonzalez said.

Gio looks like old self this spring

Fryer delivered a two-run single to left after the Cardinals again loaded the bases against Nationals reliever Trevor Gott in the fourth. The Cardinals added three more runs in the fourth to take a 6-0 lead, aided by a fielding error by Nats second baseman Stephen Drew and a wild pitch by Matt Grace. Two of the Cardinals' five runs in the fourth inning were unearned.

Harper hit his fourth home run of the spring, a solo shot to right-center field in the bottom of the fourth that put the Nationals on the board.

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The Cardinals further padded their lead on an RBI triple by Breyvic Valera in the seventh.

Cardinals Up Next: John Gant, who was traded to the Cardinals in December, will face his former team on Saturday when the Braves travel to Jupiter, Fla., for a 12:05 p.m. CT game against the Cardinals. This will be Gant's second start of spring. Relievers Brett Cecil, Kevin Siegrist and Jonathan Broxton are expected to pitch in relief. Watch the game live on MLB.TV.

Nationals Up Next: The Nationals travel to Port St. Lucie to take on the Mets at First Data Field on Saturday. The game begins at 1:10 p.m. ET. It will be the Nats' second visit to the Mets' Spring Training home this year where they beat the Mets, 8-6, in their Grapefruit League opener two weeks ago. The Nats' starting pitcher will be prospect Erick Fedde, who has not allowed an earned run in four innings this spring. Watch the game live on MLB.TV.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.