Rough third inning only blemish for Cards' Leake

Rough third inning only blemish for Cards' Leake

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Minnesota Twins starter Adalberto Mejia made another strong case for a spot in the rotation, while Joe Mauer sparked the offense in an 8-0 win over the visiting St. Louis Cardinals in front of a record crowd at Hammond Stadium on Wednesday.

"I kept thinking 'Just throw strikes, just throw strikes' there's nothing else you can do out there if you keep thinking about anything else," Mejia said through a translator.

Mejia's eight strikeouts

Twins relievers Brandon Kintzler, Craig Breslow and Ryan Pressly each threw a hitless inning in relief.

"We went out today trying to attack their hitters," Pressly said. "Everybody came out throwing strikes and we used that to our favor."

St. Louis starter Mike Leake, who had not allowed a baserunner through the first two innings, fell apart in the bottom of the third. Twins designated hitter ByungHo Park and catcher Jason Castro led off with a pair of line-drive singles up the middle. After shortstop Jorge Polanco walked to load the bases with no outs, Mauer sliced an opposite-field double down the line to put the first two runs on the board.

Brian Dozier pushed across another run with an RBI groundout to give the Twins an early 3-0 lead.

Leake ended the day allowing three earned runs on four hits over four innings, walking two and striking out three.

"Overall, I thought he looked very much like what we've seen all season, all spring," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "I think that's something he's just going to build his game around is working the corners, being down. The ground ball is his game and I think he's got more swing-and-miss stuff.

"I like how he's challenging guys in the bottom of the zone. We're seeing really good movement down there. He puts it where he wants to. I think one thing that he's got to beware of is just that big inning. That's something that's happened to him.

Leake catches Kepler looking

"I'd say last year it stood out when there's one inning that just kind of seemed like we couldn't get through. He gets in such a good fast rhythm. I always think that he's one ground-ball away from a double play and getting out of it."

Mauer finished the afternoon 2-for-3 with a run scored. Center fielder Byron Buxton, making a rare appearance in the fifth spot of the batting order, responded with a an RBI double in the fifth.

Buxton's RBI double

"We tried to get him a few more at-bats in the middle of the lineup," Paul Molitor said of his usual No. 9 hitter.

Twins prospect Matt Hague continued his torrid spring, collecting a pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh to push his team leading average to .500 (10-for-20).

Cardinals Up Next: The Cardinals host the Twins at 12:05 p.m. CT Thursday, in a game available on MLB.TV. Right-hander Trevor Rosenthal, who has been sidelined for about two weeks because of lat muscle discomfort, is expected to start. He has not started a regular-season game since 2012 in Double-A.

Twins Up Next: Minnesota will make the trek across the state to take on the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter at 12:05 p.m. CT, in a game available on MLB.TV. Kyle Gibson (1-1, 2.19 ERA) will make his fifth start of the spring. Michael Tonkin, Ryan O'Rourke and Drew Rucinski are scheduled to pitch in relief for the Twins.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Maureen Mullen and J. Scott Butherus are contributors to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.