Leake's struggles follow familiar pattern

July 24th, 2016

ST. LOUIS -- In what is becoming an all-to-frequent trend with on the mound, the veteran right-hander watched innings unravel behind him on Saturday night because both he and the defense weren't sharper.

This time, plays not made and pitches not executed left the Cardinals with a 7-2 loss to the Dodgers that sapped any momentum building from a five-game winning streak and a 16-inning victory one night earlier. The sequence of events was familiar, too, as Leake endured a pair of big innings complicated by defensive miscues and strings of hits.

"It just seems like it gets magnified when one play goes a little sour," manager Mike Matheny said. "And that seems to add up a lot of runs on him."

After briefly straying from his contact-inducing ways and recording 21 strikeouts in his last two starts, Leake needed help from his defense in a four-strikeout start on Saturday. It first let him down in the third, when second baseman , readying for a potential steal, broke toward second and failed to react in time to revert to first when laid down a safety-squeeze bunt with runners on the corners.

Leake, uncertain if he had a play at home, turned for the easy out at first only to find that no one was covering bag. Maeda was safe and eventually came around to score in what became a four-run frame.

"Miscommunication in the middle," Matheny said. "Whenever there is a bunt situation, it's the second baseman's responsibility to be over there."

"We talked about it with [bench coach David Bell] right after that, and he said that when the pitcher is up, my priority is over there at first," Garcia said. "At the time, I was covering [second on a steal]. But [Bell] and I did talk about if he bunts, switch it off."

The Dodgers stole another run in the sixth when , after cutting off a throw from center, couldn't register an out despite having rookie stuck between third and home. The unearned run was the eighth scored with Leake on the mound this year. Only two National League pitchers have given up more.

The Cardinals have committed 20 of their 73 errors in games he's pitched and have registered at least one miscue in 13 of Leake's 20 starts. That doesn't include the numerous double plays not turned or other poorly executed plays that don't officially go into the books as an error.

"We have been pretty clear that we brought him in, knowing the kind of player he was going to be," Matheny said of Leake, who has a 53.5 percent ground-ball rate. "He was going to be a pitcher who was going to try to get contact early in the count and use his defense to make plays behind him."

Of course, Leake has been complicit in several of his tangled innings, as well. On Saturday, the Dodgers tallied a dozen hits off the right-hander, who has given up 135 in total this season. That's second most among NL pitchers.

"It just wasn't me placing the ball where I wanted as much as I wanted to," Leake said. "They had a pretty good approach. They came at me."