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Cardinals Leake's start lasts too little as Bucs take big win in Classic

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. • No matter the level, pitching rules.

A few hours after marveling how close the mound was to the plate in the Little League World Series games and how so many adolescent pitchers could control games from it, the Cardinals saw the opposite happen at 60 feet, 6 inches on their side.

Mike Leake's troubles continued and that put the Cardinals behind early in a game they would lose 6-3 at Bowman Field. The Pirates took the first MLB Little League Classic by holding on to the lead they got against Leake. The Cardinals got the tying run to the plate in the ninth before Paul DeJong flew out to end the game.

The teams lined up to shake hands at the end, a first for the Cardinals since the end of the 2004 NLDS.

A crowd of 2,596, most of them Little Leaguers, saw the game.

Mike Leake continued to struggle, leaving the Cardinals with growing concerns about a starter they need to be a quality-start generator for them.

The righthander allowed six runs on eight hits, and threw only three innings. Reliever Sam Tuivailala did far more with the same amount of innings, when he held the Pirates scoring through three innings. He allowed one hit -- a double -- and struck out Josh Harrison. The Pirates' second base had gone two-for-two against Leake and caused some of the raucous against the Cardinals in the first two innings.

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It's got to be the shoes: Pham sporting special ones for Classic

As part of the Players’ Weekend event throughout baseball, players had the chance to sport colorful bats, nicknames on their jerseys, and an assortment of other accessories to flash their personality. Tommy Pham got approval for a special pair of cleats in time to wear them during the Classic. The shoes were decorated by two cancer patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital: Lamarion, 7, and Chloe, 5. Each colored and glittered and decorated one of the shoes.

The idea came to Pham only after a few of his teammates bragged about the stylish kicks they intended to wear for Players’ Weekend. Pham had forgotten. His Adidas representative offered him a pair of white shoes – to decorate on his own.

He offered them to a hospital he’s visited.

“For my lack of preparation I ended up coming with something pretty cool,” said Pham, who had another pair decorated by his 7-year-old nephew, Clayton.

Bucs infielder Josh Harrison had Little Leaguers sign his shoes that he intended to wear during the games of the Players’ Weekend. Several of the players in the Classic used yellow bats, and some Cardinals, like rookie Paul DeJong, had bats decorated like Cardinals’ ringtail stirrups.

***

Bell's four RBIs give Pirates a big lead at Little League Classic

While not quite one of the fields over at the Little League Complex, Historic Bowman Field gave away its personality during batting practice.

The new walls were close. Balls were flying.

Through the first two innings of the MLB Little League Classic, there have already been two home runs for the little leaguers in attendance. Josh Bell jacked a two-run homer in the first inning off Cardinals starter Mike Leake, and Jedd Gyorko cut into the Bucs' lead with a two-run homer.

That put the Pittsburgh lead at a run.

It has not stayed there. The Pirates have turned four groundball singles into a crooked number against the Cardinals' struggling righthander Mike Leake. Leake, who is wearing the nickname "Sparky" on the back of his jersey, has allowed eight hits, and the first four of the third inning were all grounders that got past infielders. Two to the left-field side, two the right.

Bell added a two-run single to give himself a career-best four RBIs, and he's done that in his first two at-bats. That has given the Bucs' a 6-2 lead through three innings.

***

Cardinals pick Piscotty as their extra man for Classic, starts in RF

The Cardinals had Magneuris Sierra on standby and Stephen Piscotty within reach, so as they headed toward Sunday night's MLB Little League Classic there was only one question they had to answer.

"Oh, I'm playing," Dexter Fowler gave the answer.

Slowed by back soreness on Saturday and a question mark for the coming days, Fowler felt his lower back loosen by the end of Saturday's loss to Pittsburgh, and he said before this morning -- when he toured the Little League World Series grounds -- that he was good to go. The Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates are playing in the first Classic of its type, traveling from Pittsburgh to the middle of the Keystone State and into the tempest of Little League Baseball's World Series.

Piscotty was picked as the 26th man, and with Fowler's health clearer Sierra had a return trip. The decision was made late Saturday night, and the Cardinals acknowledged they were originally planning on adding Sierra and his speed for the one game Classic.

The Cardinals and Pirates had a series of appearances and events in Williamsport this morning. Some snapshots:

  • Tommy Pham ordered "200 snow cones" for the kids as the Cardinals watched one of the World Series games. He chipped in $100 for the venture, Carlos Martinez added $100, and then Pham paid the last $20.
  • Randal Grichuk and Lance Lynn visited the dorms and played ping pong with some of the teams who didn't have games.
  • A few of the Cardinals walked into the League League dugouts on the main Williamsport field and said, "I always wondered what this was like."
  • Jose Martinez met with Team Venezuela -- but as they were crying from a loss. Martinez said it was important to be there for the kids at that time, especially when their country is in such turmoil. A few major-league players funded the kids' trip to Williamsport to compete in the LLWS.
  • Grichuk and Lynn were presented with their LLWS jerseys, something they were not allowed to take with them when they played in the tournament as boys. Lynn doubted that he could ever wear something that small.
  • The team from Australia presented the Cardinals with a blow-up kangaroo when they arrived, and Luke Voit has been carrying it around all day. The kangaroo has a spot in the dugout now. As MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch unearthed the kangaroo is traditionally carried around by a player on an Australian team who makes a baserunning error. So ... 

Piscotty will start for the Cardinals. Here's the lineup:

1. Matt Carpenter, 1B

2. Stephen Piscotty, RF

3. Paul DeJong, SS

4. Dexter Fowler, CF

5. Yadier Molina, C

6. Jedd Gyorko, 3B

7. Kolten Wong, 2B

8. Randal Grichuk, LF

9. Mike Leake, P

Seriously, check back in a few minutes. I'll update this here blog. Running around a bit with the even here.

Follow Cardinals beat writer Derrick Goold on Twitter and Facebook.

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