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Mike Leake out duels Max Scherzer, Cardinals beat Nationals 6-1

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USA TODAY Sports

Mike Leake out duels Max Scherzer, Cardinals beat Nationals 6-1

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Going up against the 2016 NL Cy Young winner and facing the prospect of stumbling to their worst start in 20 years, the St. Louis Cardinals played their best game of the young season.

Mike Leake outpitched Max Scherzer, Stephen Piscotty homered and had five RBIs, and the Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 6-1 on Wednesday to avoid a three-game sweep.

After yielding 22 runs in the first two games of the series, St. Louis dodged its first 2-7 start since 1997.

"Leake did a tremendous job on the mound and we played good defense," Piscotty said. "It was a good win, and we needed it."

Leake (1-1) gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked none over seven shutout innings. The right-hander allowed hits to the first two batters, then picked off a runner before getting 19 straight outs. The streak ended when Daniel Murphy singled with two outs in the seventh.

By that time, St. Louis had taken a 3-0 lead against Scherzer, who yielded only one earned run. He did, however, throw three wild pitches -- two in the third inning -- after tossing only two all last year while going 20-7.

Scherzer (1-1) allowed three runs, four hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out 10, the 50th time in his career he reached double figures in strikeouts.

"At the end of the day, even when you get punched in the face, you still do some things well," Scherzer said. "I was able to get a lot of swings and misses and was able to get my cut slider into lefties really well.

"Other times, I pitched ineffectively. This doesn't feel great, but I'm in a situation where I'm ready to go forward with my next start and pitch well."

With Leake leading the way, the Cardinals rebounded from a three-game skid in which they were outscored 30-9.

"It's ideal," Leake said of his performance. "It's what you ask for from a starting pitcher after you've been beat down for a couple games."

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Leake permitted only two runners past first base and reduced his ERA to 0.60.

"What a great day -- seven shutout innings against this team," manager Mike Matheny said.

After Leake was pulled, Adam Eaton hit an RBI single in the eighth inning and Washington put runners at the corners with two outs before Brett Cecil got Bryce Harper to line out to third.

Piscotty's drive in the ninth ended any remaining suspense. He also had run-scoring singles in the first and fifth innings in tying his career high for RBIs.

St. Louis used a walk and a double by Piscotty to go up 1-0 in the first inning.

In the bottom half, Eaton doubled and took third on a single by Anthony Rendon. Not long after that, a replay requested by the Cardinals revealed that Leake picked off Rendon.

"That's a game changer," Matheny said.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker agreed, noting, "We had him on the ropes and then the pickoff."

Leake subsequently struck out Harper and retired Murphy on a comebacker.

St. Louis took advantage of an error by shortstop Wilmer Difo to score two unearned runs in the fifth.

PERALTA STRUGGLES

Matheny is exercising patience while waiting for three-time All-Star Jhonny Peralta to break a hitting slump.

Peralta is 3 for 20 with eight strikeouts and no walks.

"He's run against good guys making good pitches," said Matheny, who sat Peralta on Wednesday. "We have to let him run the course."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Cardinals: 1B Matt Carpenter returned to the starting lineup after back tightness limited him to a pinch-hitting role on Tuesday.

Nationals: Placed INF Stephen Drew on the 10-day DL with a strained right hamstring. The injury occurred Tuesday night. He's been replaced on the roster by INF Grant Green.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: The team intended to travel by train to New York on Wednesday night, take Thursday off and start a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Friday night.

Nationals: Following an off day Thursday, Washington opens a three-game series against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies on Friday.

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Cubs catcher Miguel Montero to be designated for assignment after angry comments about Nats game

Cubs catcher Miguel Montero to be designated for assignment after angry comments about Nats game

The Washington Nationals were stealing bases all night long against the Chicago Cubs, swiping a total of seven bags in a 6-1 victory on Tuesday.

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Following the game, tensions were high for Cubs catcher Miguel Montero who quickly pointed the blame at pitcher Jake Arrieta for the stolen bases. 

Cubs star first baseman Anthony Rizzo addressed the situation, calling Montero "selfish."

Less than 24 hours later, Montero was designated for assignment. 

The Cubs have decided to call up Triple-A catcher Victor Caratini to replace Montero, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.

The Nats may have literally run Montero out of Chicago. 

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Trea Turner ties franchise record of stolen bases in single game with Nats 6-1 win over Cubs

Trea Turner ties franchise record of stolen bases in single game with Nats 6-1 win over Cubs

WASHINGTON -- Neither of the past two NL Cy Young Award winners had his best stuff, though Max Scherzer handled things much better than Jake Arrieta.

Scherzer allowed one run and two hits as the Washington Nationals knocked Arrieta out in the fifth inning on the way to a 6-1 victory Tuesday night. While Arrieta was slow to the plate and allowed seven stolen bases, Scherzer (9-5) threw a strong six innings, striking out six with no walks and retiring 16 of the final 17 batters he faced.

"I didn't really have great fastball command tonight, but I was able to use my offspeed to kind of collect outs when I needed to and I didn't walk anybody," said Scherzer, who allowed an earned run in the first inning for the first time since April but was in command the rest of the night. "When we needed shutdown innings we got them."

Arrieta (7-6), on the other hand, struggled with his control as he issued a season-high six walks and allowed five earned runs, getting the hook two batters into the fifth inning. The 2015 Cy Young winner hadn't walked more than three batters in a game this season.

Manager Joe Maddon quipped that the Cubs "let the wrong guys on base," but catcher Miguel Montero blamed Arrieta for all the steals.

"The reason why they were running left and right today because they know he was slow to the plate," a visibly frustrated Montero said. "It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me, and when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn't give me any time."

Four of the Montreal Expos/Nationals franchise record seven steals came from speedy shortstop Trea Turner, who Arrieta called a "factor" any time he's on.

"I don't care who is behind the plate," Arrieta said. "He's a threat."

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Washington manager Dusty Baker said the team knew Arrieta was a pitcher to run on, and the result was a lot of small ball for a team accustomed to driving in runs with power. Washington center fielder Michael Taylor went 2 for 4 with two RBIs, and Scherzer washed out the RBI triple he allowed to Kris Bryant in the first by driving in a run with an infield single off Arrieta's glove in the fourth.

When Scherzer was lifted after 93 pitches through six with a comfortable 6-1 lead, the Nationals' beleaguered bullpen got three clean innings of relief from Enny Romero, Blake Treinen, Oliver Perez and Matt Albers.

Trea Turner tied the franchise record with four steals in a game, repeating his own feat from two weeks ago. He had a chance in the eighth to break the record and move within one of the most in a game in the modern era of baseball but did not try with Bryce Harper up and a five-run lead.

"I don't think I was held, but I didn't know if I was supposed to go," said Turner, who has 32 stolen bases this season.