ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- There was no doubt the Dodgers could hit. Coming into Monday’s game, Los Angeles led baseball with a +78 run differential. Despite having 32 wins, they have just 11 saves as a team. That’s because when they win, they win big. But if the Cardinals could have hit just a little, they could have at least gotten LA’s closer to work up a sweat.
After all, Mike Leake, who prior to Monday’s loss was the National League’s ERA and WHIP leader, did his best to muzzle the Dodger offense.
“I think they had a similar approach (to when he faced them last week in LA), but they were just a little more aggressive. They were ready for the mistakes when they came."
Leake allowed six hits, surrendering two no-doubt homers to Chase Utley and Cody Bellinger, the latter of which was on a 3-0 count.
Bellinger, it should be noted, is tied with Mike Trout for the most homers in the majors since he debuted on April 25 (10), perhaps a justification of his green light on what’s usually a take count.
“I wasn’t surprised [he swung],” Leake said. “Another mistake. I was trying to go down and away and I left it right down the middle.”
He capped the Dodgers at six hits while striking out six, but was plagued by runners that turned into runs. Sac bunts moved them over, sac flies and soft singles brought them in.
But even with the uncharacteristic number of hitter-friendly counts and 859 feet of home runs, Leake was still good enough to win.
“Those are the days where we need to do something offensively to pick him up, because he’s been so shut-down [this season]. He’ll have those starts every once in awhile, and we have to help him out,” manager Mike Matheny said.
The offense mustered little to match the Dodgers, leaving five men on base and not managing any of their five hits with runners in scoring position.
It speaks to his consistency this season that Leake’s seven-inning, four-run outing was a noticeable step down; that four runs felt like 40 for an offense whose lackluster performance has Leake jealous of just about every other NL starter, as he gets the eighth lowest run support per start in the league.
The outing ended his streak of consecutive quality starts, one shy of him going a perfect 10-for-10 to start the season.
“He’s had a tough pace to keep up with with what he’s done this year. It seems like he had some near misses, a little tighter zone, but it was pretty consistently there,” Matheny said.
Leake has managed to make good on a promising spring and the declaration he feels the best he’s ever felt in his career. He’s been unwavering, both in his performance and in his self-evaluation, learning to trust himself as the successful outings mounted.
“I think I’m a little more comfortable this year with having the confidence in all the pitches, rather than just my hard stuff,” he said. “I think I’ve been able to process the last few years and slow myself down. At the same time, I’m a little more aggressive when I need to be.”
As for the streak of quality starts coming to an end, he’s still on pace for more than 27 over a full year’s work.
“That would be a pretty fun thing to do,” he said with a smile.
Especially since you don’t need offense to rack up those numbers.