Mike Leake knows where he’s at with seven days remaining before the trade deadline. He knows his name has been consistently mentioned as a potential chip the Seattle Mariners have tried to deal.
Right now, he’s pitching like all of that outside noise doesn’t exist.
“Unfortunately, and fortunately, I’ve been traded and kind of moved around for the last few years,” Leake said. “But it has given me the wherewithal to kind of know what to do in circumstances like this.”
Coming off a start where he carried a perfect game into the ninth inning, Leake came back with another quality outing Wednesday afternoon at T-Mobile Park, pitching an effective seven innings to propel the Mariners to a 5-3 win over Texas and the team’s first series win of the second half.
Leake, in the fourth year of a five-year, $80 million contract, has a no-trade clause, and would have to approve any trade. If he is indeed auditioning for a potential move to a contending team, he’s certainly made a convincing case his past two starts.
“I think I may have been (auditioning) all year, in a way, just because they were trying to trade me in the offseason for a little bit,” Leake said. “But, definitely I think I’m on the radar.”
Leake’s next scheduled start is July 30 against the Rangers in Arlington, a day before the deadline.
He will continue to try to filter out the background chatter — he’ll let his agent and wife check the trade rumors, he said — and pitch as the next chapter of his somewhat complicated relationship with Seattle’s organization unfolds.
“I’m happy here,” Leake said. “There’s definitely things I’d like to see different, or head in a different direction, but we’ll see.”
Leake’s made three starts since the All-Star break. The first, arguably the worst of his career, was two weeks ago in Anaheim, when he allowed seven runs and couldn’t get out of the first inning.
In the two since, he’s allowed a combined three runs across 16 innings — all three coming on a Rougned Odor homer in the sixth inning Wednesday afternoon — and struck out 13 batters, while walking just one. The 14 2/3 scoreless innings he tossed between the two starts is the longest streak by a Mariners pitcher this season.
“The key is Mike doesn’t walk anybody,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “When you don’t walk guys, and for the most part keep the ball on the ground ... you always keep the double play in order. He’s got a chance to get some quick outs there, and get through some innings quickly.
“He’s been keeping his pitch count really in check. He’s efficient early in the game. Teams know he’s coming after them, but he’s got enough movement on the cutter, the sinker, the changeup, you never really know what’s coming.”
Leake’s outing against the Rangers wasn’t as crisp as the one-hitter he threw against the Angels in a complete-game shutout Friday night, but he again showed the control and longevity that has shaped his season.
Leake bent, but didn’t break in five clean frames before allowing Odor his fourth homer of the series with two outs in the fifth.
“Mike was really sharp early in the ballgame again today,” Servais said. “Obviously there was a little bit more traffic, a few hits off him today, but really effective. He just made the one mistake to Odor. Odor had a heck of a series. He finds a way to get hits, and hits them over the fence against us. But, Mike did a great job, kept them right there.”
After Tim Beckham misplayed a deep fly ball to left in the first that turned into a triple for Danny Santana, Leake immediately regrouped. He corralled a hard come-backer from Elvis Andrus, and initiated a rundown between third and home, eventually tagging Santana in the base path to relieve some early pressure.
He worked out of minor jams in the third and fourth after allowing back-to-back base hits in each inning. An Andrus groundout got him out of the third, and a strikeout and double play ended the threat in the fourth after the Rangers put two runners on with no outs.
Leake made a handful of impressive defensive plays throughout the outing to help himself, including fielding a pair of hard come-backers to end the fifth and sixth.
“You know he can field. He’s a super athlete. You can see it out there,” Mariners first baseman Daniel Vogelbach said. “He works fast, he throws strikes and it’s always fun when he pitches. The games move, defense works and hitters are up there a ton.”
Odor’s three-run homer to right came with two outs in the sixth, after Nomar Mazara and Hunter Pence managed back-to-back singles, but only trimmed Seattle’s lead at that point to 4-3.
Leake never lost the lead, completed the seven innings allowing three earned runs on nine hits while striking out seven on 100 pitches. He continues to carry the lowest ERA among Seattle starters at 4.25, pushed his season record to 9-8, and hasn’t lost a game in Seattle since April.
The offense did enough to boost Leake, though Texas starter Mike Minor held the Mariners in check through the first four innings. Vogelbach finally broke through with his first of two solo home runs — he also homered twice in Leake’s last start — in the fifth to break a scoreless tie.
His second shot to right center in the sixth was his team-leading 25th homer of the season, and just his fourth off a left-handed pitcher. Vogelbach was just 9-for-71 against lefties entering the game.
“No doubt it’s good for him,” Servais said. “We’re going to see a lot (of lefties). Detroit’s going to run three lefty starters at us, plus they’ve got three or four in their bullpen. It’s that time you kind of sink or swim, and that’s a good way to start it for Vogey.”
Following Vogelbach’s leadoff homer in the fifth, the Mariners tacked on two more runs on RBI singles from Kristopher Negron and J.P. Crawford, and scored another on a throwing error.