ST. LOUIS -- Mike Leake's renaissance was on display again Tuesday, as he pitched the Cardinals to their first back-to-back wins of the season with a second straight 2-1 victory over the Pirates at Busch Stadium.
Though his scoreless innings streak came to an end at 14 1/3, Leake's dominance continued. He scattered seven hits, including two by outfielder Andrew McCutchen, but limited the Pirates to one run over 6 1/3 innings. Along the way, Leake induced 13 groundball outs.
"I think the spring was a big spring for me, and [I'm] letting it translate into the season," Leake said. "It was a good, close game all the way around today. They're tough right now. We're fighting, trying to win."
By the time Gregory Polanco drove home Pittsburgh's run with a sixth-inning groundout, the Cardinals had already built a two-run lead against Pirates starter Chad Kuhl. Dexter Fowler, off to an unimpressive 7-for-53 start, tripled and scored in the first. Hits by Jose Martinez and Greg Garcia initiated another scoring opportunity in the fourth.
The win was the Cardinals' sixth straight over the Pirates, who squandered several scoring opportunities. They went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded runners at third in two different innings, including the ninth.
"Baseball's a crazy game. We go into Chicago and win three, then you come here and it seems like you can't put a run on the board," McCutchen said. "There's been some good pitching on both ends. Our pitchers have done a tremendous job. Just wish we could score a couple more runs for them."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED The great escape Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh got himself into a mess in the ninth inning, but wiggled out of it to leave the potential tying run stranded at third. The Pirates opened the inning with two singles and loaded the bases when an overturned call awarded Jordy Mercer a one-out, infield hit. But Oh induced a sharp grounder back to him by pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin and threw home for the force out, before a fly ball out by Adam Frazier ended the game.
"He's making the big pitches in the big situations," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I just know he'd rather stay out of those tougher situations."
Leave 'em stranded: The Pirates chased Leake from the game with consecutive one-out singles in the seventh, and that prompted a bit of back-and-forth from the two managers. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle pulled John Jaso back from pinch-hitting when Cardinals manager Mike Matheny summoned lefty Brett Cecil from the 'pen. Jose Osuna, making his Major League debut, took the at-bat instead. Cecil, who had allowed five of eight inherited runners to score this year, induced an inning-ending double play.
"We liked the matchup," Hurdle said. "Cecil made a pitch and got out of the inning, but that's the matchup we were looking forward to getting."
"If we did know, I think we'd be figuring it out and having success on him."
--McCutchen, asked why Leake has been so effective against the Pirates recently
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With his key eighth-inning appearance, Cardinals reliever Matt Bowman has now been unscored upon in 17 straight outings. That streak, which covers 17 1/3 innings, dates back to Sept. 6, 2016. In between, Bowman also threw 12 scoreless innings in Spring Training.
The Pirates are 6-0 in weekend (Friday-Sunday) games and 0-8 in weekday (Monday-Thursday) games so far this season. They remain winless when scoring fewer than four runs, but they've won all six games in which they scored at least four.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Pirates extended their ninth-inning rally with help from a replay review. Mercer was ruled out at first base on a grounder to Cardinals first baseman Martinez, but the call was overturned and Mercer remained at first.
That loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against Oh, but the Pirates couldn't capitalize. Gosselin chopped a ball back to the mound, and Frazier flied out to left field.
"I knew he stutter stepped, hesitated," Matheny said of Oh. "That's an out we need right there."
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: The Pirates will wrap up their seven-day, three-city road trip Wednesday afternoon with a 12:45 p.m. CT series finale against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Right-hander Gerrit Cole will make his fourth start of the season after picking up a win with a quality start Friday at Wrigley Field.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will close out this mini three-game homestand against the Pirates on Wednesday. They expect first baseman Matt Carpenter to be in the lineup after two missed games due to a finger injury. Michael Wacha, who is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA this season, draws the start.