Game Report: Cardinals 6, Nationals 1

After a week of poor pitching, sloppy defense and a struggling offense, the Cardinals finally played a game they could smile about on Wednesday.

Mike Leake retired 19 batters in a row at one point in pitching seven shutout innings, Brett Cecil retired Bryce Harper with the game on the line and Stephen Piscotty hit his first home run and drove in five runs as the Cardinals salvaged the final game of the three-game series.

The win allowed the Cardinals to avoid starting the season 2-8 for the first time since 1997.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: Piscotty went 3-for-5 and matched his career high with five RBIs. He drove in a run in the first with a double and singled in another run in the fifth before adding three insurance runs with his homer in the ninth … The homer was the first out of the cleanup spot by the Cardinals since Sept. 6 of last year, when Matt Adams hit one … The other RBI came from Matt Carpenter, who had a sacrifice fly in the fifth on a foul ball down the left field line caught by the shortstop …. The first three runs came off the Nationals’ Max Scherzer, who allowed only four hits in six innings and struck out 10.

On the mound: The Nationals’ first two batters reached base the bottom of the first before Leake picked Anthony Rendon off first. He then retired the next 19 batters before Daniel Murphy singled with two outs in the seventh. Leake has allowed only one run in his 15 innings … He left with a 3-0 lead but the Nationals got three consecutive hits off Trevor Rosenthal to cut the lead to 3-1 in the eighth … Cecil relieved with two outs and runners on first and third in the eighth, and got Harper to line out to third on a 3-2 pitch … Seung Hwan Oh pitched the ninth and turned in his first scoreless outing of the year.

Key stat: Dexter Fowler was 1-for-4 and was hit by a pitch and scored a run. Fowler is now 6-for-35, a .171 average, to start the season. He still is looking for his first RBI of the season.

Worth noting: Aledmys Diaz and Yadier Molina had their first days off if the season. Greg Garcia played short and reached base three times with a single, a walk and getting hit by a pitch … Eric Fryer was 0-for-4, reaching on an error … Jose Martinez had another pinch-hit single and scored a run in the ninth.

Looking Ahead: The Cardinals took the train to New York after the game. They will be off on Thursday before opening a three-game series against the Yankees on Friday night. Michael Wacha will get the start against Masahiro Tanaka.