NEW YORK -- Any chance the Cardinals had to pull back to .500 on Wednesday faded quickly when Mike Leake, left vulnerable by plays not made behind him, could not contain a Mets club that had been hitless with runners in scoring position in the first two games of this series.
By the end of the first inning, the Mets had as many runs (three) off Leake as they had hits against Michael Wacha one night earlier. Things further unraveled in the second, setting the Mets up for a 7-3 victory over the Cardinals, who are left to continue chasing the .500 mark they haven't seen since June 2.
The Cardinals fell behind the Pirates and into fourth place in the National League Central with the loss.
"I really couldn't get going," Leake said. "They had a pretty good plan today, coming out attacking. I wasn't leaving balls really center-cut that much. They saw it well and were hitting me early."
Chased after two innings in his shortest start since 2013 (also against the Mets), Leake fell to 1-6 with a 5.04 ERA in his last 10 starts. His strength has faded during that stretch, too, he acknowledged.
Leake has not been able to regain all the weight he lost during a bout with shingles last summer, and his body has been more unpredictable as of late. Asked if he feels strong, he said, "No. Not necessarily. But [I] still feel strong enough to go more than two innings.
"All I know is my body feels different every start. I try to do the best I can with what I'm given each day."
A better showing by his supporting cast on Wednesday may have helped Leake dodge much of the trouble that did him in.
Mets infielder Asdrubal Cabrera scored the first run by challenging left fielder Tommy Pham, who ranks second in the NL in outfield assists, with seven. After fielding a two-out single by Yoenis Cespedes, Pham had a chance for a play at the plate. His throw, however, skipped short and sailed wide.
"It would have taken a great throw, which he's done most of the season," manager Mike Matheny said. "As soon as it got to him, I thought he was going to be out."
The Mets followed with three more hits to build a 3-0 advantage.
The second inning went awry when a potential inning-ending double-play ball sailed past two infielders who had a lapse in communication. After making a terrific pick on Cabrera's grounder, third baseman Jedd Gyorko spun to make his throw to second. As he did, he saw both shortstop Paul DeJong and second baseman Kolten Wong out of step.
The throw ended up in right field.
"I saw Kolten was [positioned] way over [in the hole] with the lefty, and I just went to the bag," said DeJong, who was supposed to defer to his second baseman on the play. "But Kolten is pretty quick. It's a learning curve playing up the middle with him. He was going to get there, and I think he saw us both converging, and you saw what happened."
"That's a tough error on Jedd, for sure," added Matheny. "Jedd came up with the ball clean, and he'll make the chest-high throw if somebody is standing there to receive it."
The Mets tallied another four hits in the inning, including a two-run single with two outs, to push their lead to seven. Three of the four runs in the frame were unearned.