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Leake looking like a good fit for Mariners

MLB.com

SEATTLE -- Sometimes a change of scenery can do wonders for a baseball player.

Case in point: Mariners starter Mike Leake.

SEATTLE -- Sometimes a change of scenery can do wonders for a baseball player.

Case in point: Mariners starter Mike Leake.

The Cardinals swapped the 29-year-old right-hander on Aug. 30, the eve of the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Many viewed it as a buy-low trade for Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto; Leake was stumbling toward September, owning a 6.94 ERA in his last 10 starts with St. Louis.

But it turned into a night-and-day difference for Leake in Seattle, where he posted a 2.53 ERA and a 2.25 FIP in five starts with the Mariners. His 0.56 walks-per-nine innings was the lowest mark for a Major League pitcher in September.

Part of the late-season improvement for Leake was managing a sore lat muscle, which hindered him for much of the second half of the season and forced him to miss his last start after the Mariners were eliminated from postseason contention. Leake is also a San Diego native who spent his college days playing for Arizona State and said he has always been partial to the laid-back atmosphere of the West Coast.

Video: OAK@SEA: Leake twirls seven frames in Mariners debut

And spending Spring Training in Arizona rather than Florida? That'll be a nice bonus, too.

"There definitely is a culture difference between the two," Leake said. "I think a laid-back environment is good for the game of baseball in general. It's such a long season. You've got to be loose to know each other better, so it's nice to be back west."

As good as Leake looked in a Mariners uniform, manager Scott Servais was equally impressed by his fit in the clubhouse.

"We knew we were going to get a guy that could carry innings and a pitch-maker with a lot of experience," Servais said. "I really like his fit with our group and what he brings from an experience standpoint. He likes to talk pitching. You see him talking to our younger guys all the time and with our catchers and stuff like that.

"He probably exceeded expectations on the numbers he's put out there in his first starts. We probably weren't expecting him to be that good. We'll take it. I hope he continues. But as far as the other stuff, you didn't really know what you are getting there, and that's exceeded expectations as well."

Video: SEA@TEX: Leake strikes out five to earn his 10th win

Leake is primarily a ground-ball pitcher who thrives when he keeps the ball down and hits his spots. But he's also one of the best defensive pitchers in the Majors. He owned the top spot on FanGraph's defensive runs saved (DRS) metric among pitchers this season with eight, and he has been in the top 10 five of his eight seasons.

"It's definitely something I've taken pride in," Leake said. "I plan to work a little bit more on it this offseason to get a little bit better and everything so that way, I can make even more cooler plays, hopefully."

Leake, who's under team control through 2020, provided late stability to an injury-ridden rotation that featured 17 different starters in 2017 and, most importantly, hope for the future.

"I can't say enough about bringing him with us moving forward," Servais said. "He's been everything we've hoped for."

Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com.

Seattle Mariners, Mike Leake