Cardinals seek another great start versus Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — The St. Louis Cardinals’ starting pitchers have been among the best in the National League this season.

Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha (2-1, 2.74 ERA) will attempt to continue their string of solid performances when he opposes Los Angeles Dodgers righty Kenta Maeda (3-2, 5.03) in the series finale Thursday at Dodger Stadium.

Despite having three pitchers in the top five of the National League’s ERA leaders, it hasn’t always resulted in wins for the Cardinals. They were 1-5 in their previous six games, but that changed Wednesday night.

National League ERA leader Mike Leake delivered another gem in a win over the Dodgers. Leake allowed four hits in eight innings, allowing a run with five strikeouts and no walks in eight innings of a 6-1 romp.

“I’d say it was a continuation. Today, I was pretty good at keeping the ball down,” Leake said.

Leake grinned when he was asked if casual fans would actually believe he is the NL’s ERA leader at 1.91. Many would probably guess that Clayton Kershaw, considered by many as the best pitcher in baseball, would be ahead of the pack. Kershaw currently ranks behind Leake with a 2.01 ERA.

“No, I’m not surprised because it’s been an eight-year process for me to get where I’m at. I’m not surprised for myself but I’m sure it is a surprise for others,” Leake said.

Wacha pitched six scoreless innings and received a no-decision Friday in a 6-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

Wacha, who will be making his eighth start of the season, ranks fifth in the National League in ERA. Cardinals starter Lance Lynn, who is third in the NL at 2.53, allowed one run and two hits in eight innings but received a no-decision in a 2-1 loss in 13 innings to the Dodgers on Tuesday.

Wacha has worked six innings or more in all seven of his starts. Wacha also has limited opposing batters to .143 average with runners in scoring position. With two outs, opponents are hitting .071.

Wacha, though, has received no-decisions in his past four starts. He hasn’t earned a win since beating the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 19. St. Louis has dropped three of his last four starts.

Wacha is 1-2 with a 3.57 ERA in four career starts against the Dodgers. In his last start against them, Wacha dropped an 8-4 decision on May 13, 2016 at Dodger Stadium. He allowed six runs in four innings.

Maeda hasn’t pitched since May 10, when he allowed two runs on five hits in a career-high 8 1/3 innings in a 5-2 win over the Pirates. Maeda struck out five and did not walk a batter.

A day later, Maeda went on the disabled list with a tight hamstring, forcing the Dodgers to be cautious with his return.

In his only career start against the Cardinals, Maeda gave up two runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings and picked up the win in a 7-2 decision July 23, 2016 in St. Louis.