Seattle Mariners

Leake holds Cardinals scoreless for bulk of game, but Mariners bullpen implodes in 5-run ninth

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Mike Leake throws as St. Louis Cardinals’ Yairo Munoz leads off at first base during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 3, 2019, in Seattle.
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Mike Leake throws as St. Louis Cardinals’ Yairo Munoz leads off at first base during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 3, 2019, in Seattle. AP

There were enough splashes of red throughout the ballpark, and a lively enough visiting section, that it could have resembled a home game at Busch Stadium, but it’s been quite some time since Mike Leake wore Cardinals red. He had plenty of energy pitching against his former team Wednesday night, but it was for a Mariners team he’s been a steady piece of for the past two seasons.

Facing the Cardinals for the first time since being traded to Seattle in 2017, Leake made one of the better starts of his career in front of a crowd of 31,878, and held the Cardinals scoreless for seven-plus innings. But, ultimately, it wasn’t enough in a deflating 5-2 loss at T-Mobile Park.

Leake worked 7 2/3 innings, didn’t allow a run despite St. Louis scattering five hits across his outing, didn’t allow a walk, and matched a season-high with seven strikeouts. The Mariners collectively didn’t allow a run through the first eight innings. But, it all crashed down in the final frame, when relievers Austin Adams and Roenis Elias combined to allow a decisive five runs, wiping away what Leake had put together the innings before.

Getting the last three outs were a struggle tonight,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Mike Leake threw the ball great. They were very aggressive against him early in counts, and he was able to get deep in the ballgame. Outstanding effort by him. We had the lead there, felt good about it.

“Austin has probably been one of the best right-handed relievers in the game over the last three or four weeks, but just couldn’t finish them off. … Disappointing, because we did play a very good ballgame.”

Leake allowed a leadoff single to Yairo Munoz in the first, but retired 11 straight batters before allowing another, including striking out the side in the second. Paul Goldschmidt doubled to open the fifth, but Leake calmly worked out of that inning. Harrison Bader singled in the sixth, Paul DeJong in the seventh and Bader again in the eighth, but the Cardinals never strung together more than one hit an inning with Leake on the mound.

“It wasn’t a lot of surprises, but a lot of execution for Mike tonight on their side,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “I thought everything was pretty crisp. The sinker was late. The cutter was really sharp and effective. His secondary pitches were for strikes. Everything was pretty much coming out of the same spot, so I thought he threw the ball really well. ... To his credit, he made pitches to get through the eighth.”

Leake was somewhat surprisingly removed after Bader’s two-out base hit in the eighth, throwing just 95 pitches after eclipsing 100 in six of his outings this season.

“Where we were at there — why not go to Austin? He’d been really good,” Servais said. “They were getting to the top of the order for the fourth time and there’s not too many starters that are going to go through that four times. We got through the eighth no problem, just didn’t finish it off in the ninth.”

Adams swiftly secured the final out of the eighth, but couldn’t close out the win in the ninth. He recorded just one out before he was replaced, allowed singles to Jose Martinez and Goldschmidt, and walked former Mariners prospect Tyler O’Neill to load the bases. Adams worked ahead of each of the four batters he faced in the ninth, and appeared to find the corner with a slider that would have struck out O’Neill looking, but didn’t get the call.

“I thought he had him struck out on the 2-2 pitch,” Servais said. “My catcher believes it was strike three, which changes some things, obviously (in that case) it’s two outs, first and second, but that didn’t happen. Walked O’Neill then brought in Elias to flip around (Dexter) Fowler. They were able to find some holes, hit some balls and get some big hits.”

Servais turned to Elias, who has often functioned as Seattle’s closer this season, to try to preserve Leake’s start. He had Fowler down 0-2, but gave up an RBI single to right that scored Martinez. Yadier Molina’s sac fly to left then tied it, despite rookie Dylan Moore trying to throw down Goldschmidt at the plate for the final out after making a leaping catch. But, the throw was just wide of catcher Tom Murphy.

“I overran it just a little bit,” Moore said. “It was hit a little bit harder than I thought. I kind of had to jump and adjust, and by the time I got my feet back under me and threw, it was on line until the very end.”

The game got out of hand the next at-bat, when pinch hitter Tommy Edman crushed a three-run homer into the Mariners bullpen in left. Moore tried to leap the wall, but it was too far gone. The hoard of St. Louis fans roared, the Cardinals dugout cleared, and Leake was left without a decision in his first scoreless outing of the season.

Leake has been a steady contributor for Seattle since his arrival. He was traded the final week of August in 2017, along with cash and international slot money to help bolster a Mariners rotation seeking to end a long playoff drought that season, and in the handful of seasons that followed. That still hasn’t happened, but Leake has often done his part.

For stretches this season in particular, he’s acted as a stopper to some grueling Mariners losing streaks, and has allowed three earned runs or less in 11 of his 18 starts.

“Certainly pitching against one of your former teams, you’re always fired up to go after them, and I thought he did a really good job,” Servais said.

The Mariners ran up St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright’s pitch count early — he threw 70 in the first three innings — but weren’t able to cash in until the fifth, stranding three in the first three innings.

Moore finally broke the scoreless tie in the fifth, crushing a 411-foot solo homer to left that clanged off the stairway behind the Cardinals bullpen. It was his fourth homer of the season.

Seattle added another run in the sixth. Domingo Santana opened the inning with a single, and Daniel Vogelbach followed with another single to push Santana to third. He then scored on a wild pitch from St. Louis reliever Tyler Webb to make it 2-0.

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.