Leake cruises as Cards rain homers on Halos

Leake cruises as Cards rain homers on Halos

ANAHEIM -- Mike Leake, struggling through his first five weeks of the season, picked up his first win with the Cardinals in dominating fashion on Tuesday night, twirling eight innings of one-run ball while leading his team to an 8-1 victory over the Angels at Angel Stadium.

The Cardinals (17-16) hit four home runs, two of them off the bat of Matt Carpenter, and scored four runs in the fifth inning, ending Angels starter Hector Santiago's start. Leake entered with a 6.03 ERA and was winless through his first six starts, but he shut the Angels out through the first seven frames and at one point retired 14 consecutive hitters.

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"It feels pretty good," Leake said. "To me, it's another game. But it's nice to get a win for the team. I guess six or seven games in a row of not producing will do something. But you have to keep moving forward and learn."

The Cardinals took a 4-0 lead with a two-run homer by Randal Grichuk, who took Javy Guerra deep on the first pitch he threw in relief of Santiago. In the sixth, Carpenter and Matt Holliday went deep off A.J. Achter. St. Louis had managed only four home runs in its previous six games.

Cardinals put on power display

"Our offense really clicked today," said Carpenter, whose multi-homer game was the third of his career. "We were able to get a lead, extend the lead. Guys were driving the ball."

The Angels, dealing with injuries to their pitching staff and struggles with their lineup, have dropped four in a row to move to 13-19. They're a season-worst six games below .500 and sport a minus-24 run-differential, with six players currently on the disabled list.

"We have to play better," Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun said. "We're not playing good baseball right now. Something's gotta give. We've got to come together as a team. We have to throw the ball better, we have to hit better, we have to pull together."

Calhoun's sacrifice fly

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Delayed debut: Grichuk, drafted by the Angels in 2009, made his first appearance at Angel Stadium and showed the home crowd a glimpse of what could have been. Grichuk reached base four times and smashed a two-run homer just beyond the reach of a leaping Mike Trout, who was selected one pick behind Grichuk in that '09 draft.

"I've seen [him do] that on ESPN," said Grichuk, who initially believed his former Minor League roommate came down with the ball. "I knew I got it well, but I didn't know if I got it enough. I saw him jump, and we've seen that play a lot with Trout bringing them back. I thought he had it."

Grichuk's two-run shot

Troubling signs: Santiago exited after only 83 pitches and threw his fastball, identified as sinkers, mostly 89-90 mph, topping out at 92 and sitting about four ticks below where he was earlier in the season. Over his previous three starts, Santiago's average four-seam fastball velocity has gone from 93.6 to 92.5 to 91.3. On Tuesday, he was charged with four runs on seven hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings, striking out two.

"There's nothing physically wrong with me," Santiago said. "I feel fine. It's just a matter of just trying to get ahead. I think that early on I was getting ahead on a lot of batters so I had that room to kind of rear back and let it loose. Right now I'm falling behind in counts, so I'm put in situations where I've got to make pitches."

Plugging the Leake: Many of Leake's early-season troubles have come while pitching out of the stretch, something Leake was forced to do out of the gate on Tuesday. He passed the test, however, keeping the Angels from scoring despite allowing leadoff hits in both the first and second innings. Opponents had been hitting .314 off Leake with runners on base. More >

"I think he's probably hypersensitive to it, too, that there is one inning that just kind of seems to get him," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "To be able to have plays made behind him to allow him to get off the field and into the dugout so we can score runs, it's something to build off of."

Leake's dominant start

No offense: Angels hitters entered with the fifth-lowest OPS in the Major Leagues, then managed only four singles through the first seven innings. Over their last four games, the Angels have hit .214 (27-for-126) with three extra-base hits in 36 innings. Albert Pujols has one hit in his last 17 at-bats, dropping his slash line to .183/.261/.350.

"We're going to have to continue to pressure teams, and get out there and get some guys that have had some trouble having hits fall in, get them hot," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We know that will happen. You focus on the process. And we're going to continue to focus on the process. Those guys in that room, they're upbeat in the dugout, they want to play well, sometimes to a fault, and our job, really, is just to get them to exhale."

Scioscia on loss to Cards

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Cardinals have collected nine extra-base hits in two of their first 33 games of 2016, a feat they didn't accomplish even once over their last two seasons. On Tuesday, those extra-base hits included four homers and five doubles, with six different players contributing at least one. Holliday had three extra-base hits in a game for the first time since July 11, 2014.

Diaz's RBI double

WHAT'S NEXT
Cardinals: Jaime Garcia will carry a 12 1/3-inning scoreless streak into his first career start against the Angels on Wednesday at 9:05 p.m. CT. Garcia leads the Cardinals with 40 strikeouts and ranks second among National League pitchers with a .175 opponents batting average.

Angels: Matt Shoemaker will oppose Garcia in the second of a three-game series from Angel Stadium, with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. PT. Shoemaker finished the month of April with a 9.15 ERA and was sent to Triple-A, but will be called back up to help fill an injury-riddled rotation.

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Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.