Leake solid, but streak of quality starts ends

Righty allows four runs over seven innings in loss to Dodgers

Leake solid, but streak of quality starts ends

ST. LOUIS -- Entering his 10th start of the season, Mike Leake had set an impressive standard to live up to. He came into Monday as the only National League pitcher with a quality start in all of his starts this year, and he had built a comfortable lead atop the NL ERA leaderboard with a 1.91 mark.

The next best pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, holds a 2.37 ERA. However, it was Kershaw's team that found success against the St. Louis right-hander Monday, leading to Leake's worst appearance of the year and ultimately a 5-1 loss for the Cardinals.

While making it through seven innings and notching six strikeouts, Leake gave up six hits, four earned runs and a walk to the Dodgers. His ERA for the season went up to 2.24, while he now has a 0.94 WHIP.

"I thought there were some good times, bad times, but for the most part, [I] gave them a couple mistakes that they were ready for," Leake said after the game. "It was a tough challenge today."

Leake still put up a solid performance overall, and he happened to notch his 900th career strikeout with his third of the day. He has made it through at least six innings in all of his starts this year, which will benefit the bullpen as the series against the Dodgers progresses. His counterpart for Los Angeles, Rich Hill, only made it through five on Monday.

"He's been as good as anybody in the league," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Leake. "He's been terrific. And seven innings, six hits, he gives us a chance there."

With Leake having faced the same team just a week prior, there were questions about whether the Dodgers would be more prepared for his pitches this time around. In his last start against Los Angeles on Wednesday, Leake pitched eight innings, allowing just four hits and one earned run. But he allowed two homers Monday, including one to Chase Utley, who entered the game 4-for-30 in his career vs. Leake.

"I think [the Dodgers] had a similar approach, but I think they were just a little more aggressive toward their approach," Leake said. "I think they were ready for the mistakes when they came."

The Cards' offense, however, struggled alongside Leake, scoring just one run on five hits and leaving six runners on base. Amid the inconsistency the team has had offensively, the success of the starting pitchers has been the strong suit for the Cardinals of late.

"He's had a tough pace to keep up with what he's been able to do this year," Matheny said. "He had some near-misses. … He's been and looked very similar -- there wasn't anything radically different. I would say the near-miss ran him into different counts than what he'd been used to working with."

Alaina Getzenberg 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.