ST. LOUIS – Needing a win to get back in first place, St. Louis was in good hands Saturday night with Adam Wainwright on the mound. Wainwright did not disappoint the sellout crowd of 45,110 at Busch Stadium as he dominated Pittsburgh in the Cardinals' 5-0 win.
“Today I wanted to go out and repeat my delivery and execute pitches,” Wainwright said. “Directionally I was a little off the last few starts out and today everything was working towards the catcher, not horizontally, everything was going straight towards the catcher I think my stuff was drastically different because of that.”
Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny was glad to see his pitcher back in the form of the ace St. Louis has come to expect.
“That was the Adam that we have been so spoiled in watching most of this season,” Matheny said. “That is the same guy we have come to expect every time out there. … It was nice to get him back there for sure.”
The Cardinals’ victory moved St. Louis back into sole possession of first place for the first time since Aug. 29.
“We have been back and forth with them all year,” Wainwright said. “Any time we can get a win and go into the next day and come out ready to play is a good win.”
Wainwright was masterful on the mound as he limited the Pirates to just a pair of hits, both coming from Andrew McCutchen. Wainwright struck out eight and walked two while throwing seven shutout innings to earn his 16th win of the season. He retired the last 10 batters he faced and struck out the final four.
“My stuff tonight was different,” Wainwright said. “It was sharper. It was cutting, it was biting, it was late moving and when it is doing that, I am very tough. That is something I have lacked the last two outings.”
Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina could tell Wainwright was in a groove from the beginning.
“Today was a good day for him,” Molina said. “He was aggressive and every time he is aggressive, he pitches very good.”
The Cardinals’ ace even got the offense jumpstarted when he picked up St. Louis’ first hit of the game, a double to lead off the third.
St. Louis didn’t get its first runs until the fourth inning. But after taking that lead, the Redbirds never trailed.
The inning started with a walk to Carlos Beltran. Molina followed with a double to put runners at second and third with no outs. David Freese then drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly to left-center.
A wild pitch moved Molina to third before Brock Peterson struck out for the second out. But Pete Kozma followed with an infield single down the third base line allowing Molina to score. The RBI was the 34th of the season for the Cardinals’ shortstop.
St. Louis (82-60) added a third run in the bottom of the fifth without the benefit of a base hit.
After Matt Carpenter was hit by a pitch, Shane Robinson hit one back to the Pirates’ shortstop. But, a bad throw to second ended up in right field allowing Carpenter to advance to third and Robinson to go to make it to second. On a side note, Carpenter saw his seven-game hitting streak come to an end as he was 0-for-3, walking once and being hit by a pitch.
Matt Holliday collected his 78th RBI when he grounded out to short allowing Carpenter to score his 110th run of the season, the most in a season by a Cardinals’ primary second baseman since Frankie Frisch scored 121 in 1930.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Pirates (81-60) brought in reliever Jeanmar Gomez to open the inning. On the third pitch, Freese launched the offering 425-feet to center for a solo home run, his eighth of the year.
“This is about (Freese’s) time to go isn’t it,” Wainwright said of his third baseman. “Hopefully we will see that 2011 down the stretch Freezy. We have known it was coming for a while. He is a great hitter and has had a tough season, but he still goes out there and battles and takes tough at bats. We know he was going to come around at some point and he is starting to do that.”
The Cardinals' final run came in the bottom of the eighth. Molina opened the frame with a double and moved to second on a groundout. After Kozma walked, pinch hitter Daniel Descalso drove Molina in with an RBI single to left.
Offensively, the Cardinals had as many hits (six) as they did walks (six).
Freese finished the night 1-for-2 in four trips to the plate with a pair of runs batted in while Molina was 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles.
Matheny is pleased with the way Freese is swinging the lumber.
“Even his out,” Matheny said. “It was one of those RBIs with a man on third base. It was a tough play (the Pirates) made. It could have easily been a double. He is working his hands well right now and the ball is jumping off his bat.”
In the first inning, Wainwright struck out Justin Morneau for the 1,096 strike out of his career, moving him past Dizzy Dean and into sole possession of second place all time in St. Louis Cardinals' history. Wainwright trails only Bob Gibson (3,117). Wainwright finished the night with 1,103 career punch outs. Wainwright whose career-high in strikeouts is 213 back in 2010, has 195 strikeouts this season.
Trevor Rosenthal relieved Wainwright to start the eighth and retired the side 1-2-3. With a 5-0 lead and no save situation, Seth Maness started the ninth. He ended a string of 13 straight Pirates retired by Cardinals’ pitching when Jose Tabata doubled to open the inning. However, he got the next two batters on a fly out to deep left and comebacker to the mound. Randy Choate recorded the final out to preserve the shutout when he struck out Morneau swinging.
St. Louis and Pittsburgh will close out the season series this afternoon with the Cardinals looking for a sweep of the current three-game series. With a win, the Cardinals will increase their lead to 1 ½ games over Pittsburgh. With a loss, the Pirates will retake the lead by half a game.
“I think every win is a good day,” Matheny said. “We know that the standings are there. We know where we are and we try to real hard not to pay a lot of attention to it just because there is so much time to go. … We need to take care of business.”