Having overcome his early-season struggles, Mike Leake now hopes his improvement translates against an opponent that's had his number of late.
Leake looks to end a four-start winless stretch against the Milwaukee Brewers and pitch the St. Louis Cardinals to a second straight win over their NL Central rivals Tuesday night.
After beginning his Cardinals' tenure 0-3 with a 6.03 ERA through six starts, Leake (3-4, 3.90 ERA) has allowed just four runs over 28 innings in stringing together four very good ones. The free-agent addition had won three consecutive outings before surrendering solo homers to Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa in seven innings of Thursday's 2-1 loss at Washington.
Better command has been the key to Leake's resurgence, as he's issued four walks over his improved stretch.
"If I put it where I want it, I feel like they're not going to hit it," he told MLB's official website.
Leake wasn't as sharp when allowing four runs in six innings in a no-decision against the Brewers on April 13. He had lost his previous three matchups with Milwaukee and has posted a 5.59 ERA over his past five meetings, with the Brewers hitting .355 over those games.
Jonathan Lucroy is 15 for 32 with a home run off Leake and 7 for 14 with two homers and nine RBIs over his last four games. The catcher had one of five singles against Carlos Martinez, whose dominant eight-inning stint led the Cardinals to a 6-0 win in Monday's opener of this three-game set.
Martinez struck out eight and received ample support in halting a five-start losing streak. Matt Carpenter went 4 for 5 with three runs scored and Matt Holliday finished 3 for 4 with a homer and three RBIs.
''That was phenomenal,'' manager Mike Matheny said of Martinez. ''He can be as dominating as anybody in the game when he puts it all together.''
Milwaukee (23-28) didn't help its cause with an error and passed ball during the Cardinals' three-run third.
''They were kind of `woulda-coulda-shoulda' plays but certainly not routine plays,'' manager Craig Counsell said. ''The way Martinez was pitching, we pretty much needed to make every play.''
Holliday has three homers in six games after hitting three over his previous 29. The veteran outfielder is on an 8-for-12 tear and owns a .357 average against Wily Peralta (3-5, 6.62), who seeks to build off a promising last outing and end a five-start losing streak against St. Louis (27-25).
Peralta has recorded a 6.33 ERA over the skid and was reached for five runs in five innings in a 7-0 loss at Busch Stadium on April 14, falling to 4-9 in 14 career meetings with the Cardinals.
The right-hander also has struggled this season at Miller Park, where he's allowed 24 earned runs and a .390 average in 24 2/3 innings. Peralta did throw 5 1/3 effective innings Thursday in Atlanta, yielding two runs in a 6-2 win.
Carpenter has hit .457 with three homers in 35 at-bats against Peralta, while Randal Grichuk is 3 for 6 and homered off him in last month's matchup.
Milwaukee has lost 12 of 16 to St. Louis and 10 of 12 at home in the series and may have Ryan Braun out of the lineup again. The 2011 NL MVP, hitting .351 this season, hasn't started the last three games due to a sore neck.