LOS ANGELES -- Mike Leake fired a four-hitter for eight innings while the Cardinals capitalized on seven walks issued by Dodgers starter Rich Hill and a two-run error by left fielder Cody Bellinger in a 6-1 win Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. The win was the Cardinals' 10th in their last 11 road games and pulled them to within a half-game of the division-leading Brewers.
Leake (5-2) reclaimed the National League ERA lead from Clayton Kershaw at 1.91, striking out five without a walk. All nine of his starts this year have been quality starts, and he completed a turn through the Cardinals' rotation in which the starters allowed three runs over 38 1/3 innings.
"I don't want them to flinch and doubt that this isn't the staff they should be," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Those are hard numbers to keep matching, but when I watch them go about their business, they're not doing anything out of the ordinary. They're executing, and they're getting in big spots and making really good pitches. It's been a good run, but I think it should set the template and the expectation."
Hill (1-2) was removed after four-plus innings having issued a career-high in walks, with three of them scoring, in his second start since returning from the disabled list for chronic blisters. Hill walked four in a 36-pitch second inning, when Kolten Wong put the Cardinals on the board with a two-run single.
"I think he got a little frustrated with the strike zone with pitches up he thought were strikes and felt he was getting squeezed and I think that led to his inconsistency," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, noting that Hill had several exchanges with plate umpire Rob Drake.
"After that, fastball command, not there. Curveball command, not there. Getting behind hitters. We saw a little of this in Spring Training, but since the season started very uncharacteristic."
Hill is scheduled to face the Cardinals again next week in St. Louis.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Winning with little ball: The Cardinals scored three runs in the fifth inning on a walk by Stephen Piscotty, a bunt single by Matt Carpenter to defeat the Dodgers' defensive shift and a Jedd Gyorko single that Bellinger misplayed into a two-run error, with Gyorko scoring on Molina's sacrifice fly. Gyorko had three hits and is batting .331.
"I just took my eye off it," Bellinger said of the ball that scooted past him. "I was looking up and I forgot who was running, just to see who was going home and just that split second, it got away from me. I apologized [to Hill], you know we understand that's baseball and I just got to keep my eye on the ball a little bit longer."
I got it: Making his outfield debut replacing the injured Joc Pederson in center field, Chris Taylor had an immediate baptism, sent to dead center by Dexter Fowler to make a leaping catch at the wall leading off the game.
"I'm not surprised because it's been an eight-year process for me to get to where I'm at. So it's not a surprise for myself, but I'm sure it is a surprise for others." -- Leake, on finding himself atop the NL ERA leaderboard
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Hill's seven walks were the most issued by a Dodgers pitcher since Scott Kazmir walked seven on May 20, 2016, at San Diego.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: The Cardinals will wrap up their stay in Los Angeles with a 9:10 p.m. CT game on Thursday in which Michael Wacha will seek his eighth straight six-plus-inning start to open the season. Wacha, who threw six scoreless innings his last time out, is 1-2 with a 3.57 ERA in four career starts against the Dodgers.
Dodgers: The Dodgers aren't sure they will get Pederson (neck strain) back for Thursday's 7:10 p.m. PT series finale, but the starting pitcher will be Kenta Maeda, who comes off the DL (hamstring) hoping to pitch as well as he did in his last start, when he went 8 1/3 innings May 10 in a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh.