ARLINGTON -- Mike Leake took a different path this time, but the end result was another Mariners win -- an 8-1 victory over the Rangers -- and that worked quite well for the newest Seattle starter on Wednesday night at Globe Life Park.
Leake has given the Mariners' injury-racked rotation a considerable boost, as he's 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA in three starts since being acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 30 for Minor League infielder Rayder Ascanio.
"It's about pitching, and Mike Leake has been outstanding," manager Scott Servais said.
"He's got a lot of time under his belt," catcher Mike Zunino said. "I think he's a great presence to have here for our young pitchers, and a lot of guys that can really look up to him and see how he throws and learn from him."
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto viewed Leake's acquisition as much about the long term as the present, given Seattle's need to solidify its rotation next year and beyond. But Leake, 29, has wasted no time making an immediate impact, with his latest win pulling the Mariners back to .500 at 73-73 and keeping them 3 1/2 games behind the Twins for the second American League Wild Card spot.
Time is clearly running out in the playoff chase, but with ace Felix Hernandez and James Paxton due to rejoin the rotation in the next two days, and Leake performing well, there finally is a semblance of veteran presence in the pitching ranks for the stretch run.
In his first two starts for Seattle, Leake gave up three straight hits and two runs to open each game against the A's and Angels, then settled in and slammed the door en route to impressive wins.
This time, the right-hander was under control from the start, only allowing his one run in the sixth inning before James Pazos came on to stymie the Rangers' rally. Leake finished with five hits allowed, one walk and five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings on 90 pitches.
"Today, I definitely felt I had to figure something out to avoid that first inning," Leake said. "I was just making sure I was attacking and giving that little extra effort when I needed."
Leake's three-game run for Seattle represents an impressive turnaround to his season. After starting out 5-2 with a 1.91 ERA through his first nine starts for the Cardinals, he went 2-10 with a 5.73 ERA over his final 17 outings in St. Louis before being dealt to the Mariners.
But Seattle has clearly seen the good side of Leake.
"My body has been weird the last year or two," Leake said. "I think, coming in here, I was able to relax a little and take a deep breath, and get my body back to feeling good enough to pitch."
Leake has 17 strikeouts and two walks in his three starts with Seattle, and has shown a welcome ability to keep the ball on the ground while working with a quick tempo.
"It's very different for our club," Servais said. "The last couple years, we've been driven by fly-ball guys for the most part. It's nice to have a guy just attacking all the time. He's got weapons at the bottom of the strike zone, he gets them in swing mode, keeps it on the ground and our defense has been pretty solid behind him. I like it. I like the pace he pitches at, our guys are on their toes and ready to go."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.