But on Monday, Leake walked the leadoff batter in three consecutive innings, a rarity for the right-hander. Last season, Leake went the entire month of July without issuing a free pass in 30 innings. His career-long 36-inning streak without allowing a walk was the second-longest in the Majors last year behind the Angels' Matt Shoemaker (39 1/3).
Still it wasn't an area of concern for Leake, who continues to work on things this spring.
"I'm not concerned at all," Leake said. "As I fine tune, I think it will go back to normal."
Three double plays turned by the Cardinals' defense helped Leake from further damage.
"It's nice to be able to get two outs with one swing," Leake said. "Especially when you're getting guys on base early. It's nice to turn a double play to get out of it."
But Leake couldn't escape a three-run third inning, as the Astros tagged him for three runs and three hits before he could record an out.
Leake never really got into a groove, giving up a double and single to the first two batters he faced. He did, however, get Astros second baseman Jose Altuve to ground into a double play. A run scored on the play, but it still helped Leake get out of the inning with minimal damage.
Leake threw 77 pitches, including 45 for strikes.
Leake also batted in the ninth spot rather than the Cards using a DH. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a groundout, but his 84 career hits in the regular season since his 2010 debut are most among Major League pitchers, while his .203 batting average is second in the Majors among pitchers behind Zack Greinke (.218).
Dexter Fowler was scratched from Monday night's game due to illness. The outfielder, who signed a free-agent deal with the Cardinals in December, has been scorching at the plate with a.360 average in 25 at-bats.
Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.