ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals committed an error in four of Mike Leake's starts in June, including three in his June 30 outing against the Royals. His solution over his past two starts in July has been simple: Don't let the other team put the ball in play.
Leake struck out 11 batters, one shy of his career high, in a 10-2 victory over the Padres on Monday night. This after accumulating 10 in his previous outing, against the Brewers, right before the All-Star break.
He is now the first pitcher in the Majors to have two consecutive games of 10 strikeouts or more, with no walks and one run or fewer, since Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw last season.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny went as far to call Leake an artist on the mound.
"He's painting with it," Matheny said. "You see some of those calls, even in the beginning, they didn't think were on the plate, and they were right on where he wanted to be. He was out there throwing darts today."
Leake struck out a batter in each of his six innings. Three times he fanned Padres first baseman Wil Myers. He attributes the K's to a more aggressive mentality on the rubber.
"I feel good, I feel healthy, and I'm just going after guys," Leake said. "It's just all coming together a little bit. I'm just able to put the ball where I want a little bit better right now than I was earlier in the season."
Leake is the first Cardinals starter since Lance Lynn in 2012 to strike out 10 batters in consecutive starts, and he hasn't issued a walk in 19 innings, dating back to the seventh inning on June 30.
He has also manipulated his curveball, which is making it more deceptive.
"The shape of it is getting a little bit better," he said. "[I've] just been a little bit more consistent with my fastball, so it might be tougher to see."
"You're seeing swing and misses on the sinker, swing throughs on the slider, the slider had good bite late," Matheny said. "He didn't make a lot of mistakes."
Leake had drawn a walk and singled by the time his spot came up in the seventh inning with two runners on, but Matheny decided to pinch-hit with Matt Adams.
"It was a tight spot in the game," Leake said. "It was what [Matheny] wanted to go with. I mean, I would have kept going, but in that situation you don't want to take your chances with first and second."
Leake improved to 7-7 with the victory. His next scheduled start is at Busch Stadium on Saturday against the Dodgers, against whom he recorded three strikeouts in six innings on May 15.
Nick Krueger is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.