ST. LOUIS — Mike Leake doesn’t have too many secrets on the mound. For the Cardinals right-hander, location is everything.
Leake owned the strike zone while pitching into the seventh inning, Dexter Fowler tripled and scored, and St. Louis beat Pittsburgh 2-1 on Tuesday night after Pirates outfielder Starling Marte was suspended 80 games for a banned substance earlier in the day.
“It’s just where he’s putting every pitch, and he’s able to throw every pitch on both sides of the plate and I’d say that sinker and cutter are closer to the same velocity, but you’re kind of working off the middle and running it to both sides,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Leake. “That’s a tough at-bat if you’re putting it on the corner.”
Seung Hwan Oh allowed three hits in the ninth but escaped a one-out, bases-loaded jam for his second save.
Leake (2-1) allowed seven hits and only struck out one, but he held the Pirates to a run over 6 1/3 innings. He has won nine of his last 11 decisions against the Pirates dating to Sept. 11, 2012.
“He throws strikes,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “… He makes pitches, he’s very effective, he competes very well on the mound. He’s a guy that we’ve been challenged by.”
Leake has continued a strong spring through his first three starts of the season. He leads the rotation in wins, ERA (0.84) and innings pitched (21 1/3).
“I think this spring was a big spring for me and just kind of letting it translate into the season is as big,” Leake said.
The Cardinals have won back-to-back games for the first time this season to improve to 5-9.
“We get some positive ju-ju going our way and we’re eliminating our mistakes and that’s how we’re winning games,” Fowler said.
Chad Kuhl (1-1) gave up two runs over six innings. He allowed three hits and struck out three.
Fowler led off the first with a triple to right and scored on Stephen Piscotty’s ground out.
Greg Garcia’s double in the fifth scored Jose Martinez to make it 2-0 Cardinals. Garcia was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple.
Brett Cecil, Matt Bowman and Oh pitched scoreless relief for St. Louis. Bowman extended his scoreless streak to 17 1/3 innings dating to last season.
Adam Frazier scored the Pirates’ run on a groundout by Gregory Polanco in the sixth.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Hurdle successfully challenged an out call on Jordy Mercer in the ninth. Mercer beat Oh to the bag and the review gave the Pirates bases loaded with just one out, but Oh threw out a runner at home on a ground ball and then got Frazier to fly out to left to end it.
Cardinals: INF Matt Carpenter missed his second straight game after taking a batted ball off of his hand Sunday. Carpenter hopes to return Wednesday.
Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29 ERA) is looking for his second straight win after a six-inning, two-run effort at Chicago on Friday. He is 5-3 with a 2.82 ERA in 10 career starts against St. Louis.
Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00 ERA) had a six-game winning streak snapped in his last outing. He is 3-2 with a 4.25 ERA in 11 career games against Pittsburgh.