- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Mike Leake started strong and fizzled out fast.

The St. Louis Cardinals right-hander gave up all five runs in the fifth and sixth innings in a 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night.

“Unfortunately, it’s been the name of the game so far this year,” Leake said. “I think at some point it will not happen.”

Leake (5-7) has lost his last three outings with a 6.06 ERA but manager Mike Matheny saw the positives in an up-and-down year from the team’s top free agent pickup. The previous start was strong, two earned runs allowed in seven innings against the Royals.

“I think Mike was about kind of what we hoped for - he kept us in the game and we’ve got to make plays to help him,” Matheny said. “It comes down to the fact that we didn’t get many big hits or many hits at all.”

Leake held the Pirates to two singles the first four innings before getting burned by two former Cardinals. Eighth-place hitter Eric Fryer had an RBI single in a two-run fifth that tied it and a two-run double in a three-run sixth, and David Freese had an RBI single in the sixth.

Josh Harrison also had an RBI for Pittsburgh.

“Freese was missing location. Harrison, that’s a good pitch. Fryer did a good job of putting the ball in play,” Leake said. “They weren’t terribly located balls, but not the best.”

The Cardinals released Fryer when backup catcher Brayan Pena came off the 15-day disabled list and the Pirates claimed him off waivers on Sunday. He batted .368 with St. Louis with five RBIs in 38 at-bats behind seven-time All-Star Yadier Molina but Pena has a two-year, $5 million contract.

The Cardinals got RBIs from Jedd Gyorko and Matt Holliday, and Randal Grichuk was a minor bright spot with a pinch-hit single in the ninth. Grichuk was recalled from Triple-A Memphis after Brandon Moss was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left ankle.

“It feels great,” Grichuk said. “I wasn’t down there too long but it felt like it was awhile.”

Juan Nicasio (7-6) worked two scoreless innings in relief of lefty Steven Brault, who allowed one earned run in four innings while throwing 82 pitches and adding a single in his debut. The 24-year-old Brault pitched in place of fellow rookie Jameson Taillon, placed on the DL on Sunday with shoulder fatigue.

The Pirates have taken the first two games of a four-game set and are 7-4 in the season series, closing within one-half game of the second-place Cardinals in the NL Central.

Mark Melancon finished for his 21st consecutive save and 25th in 26 chances.

Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang, under investigation by Chicago police on an allegation of sexual assault, singled pinch-hitting to open the ninth.

HOT BOX

Harrison stayed alive in a rundown between third and home long enough for the hitter and runner to take two bases in the fifth. The Cardinals finally got him out on a play scored 3-2-5-3-6-4.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Pirates: RHP Ryan Vogelsong (facial fracture) threw 61 pitches in a four-inning simulated game. … RHP Gerrit Cole (biceps) struck out six and allowed two hits for Triple-A Indianapolis to begin a rehab start.

Cardinals: SS Jhonny Peralta was taken out after three innings with discomfort in his left thumb. The team said it was unrelated to the surgery for a torn thumb ligament in March.

SLUMPING

Matt Adams, who replaced Peralta in the lineup, is in an 0-for-31 slump.

UP NEXT

Pirates: Jeff Locke (8-5, 5.13) has won his last three starts with a 1.93 ERA and bested Oakland ace Sonny Gray his last time out.

Cardinals: Jaime Garcia (6-6, 3.84) allowed one run in eight innings against the Brewers his last time out. He has a 0.57 ERA against Pittsburgh in six games, four starts.

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