Adam Wainwright was back in ace form Saturday night at Busch Stadium, throwing seven scoreless innings to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, taking over first place in the National League Central in the process.
The Cardinals (82-60), who have won the first two games of this pivotal weekend series, lead the Pirates (81-60) by a half game for the top spot in the division. Pittsburgh took two out of three last weekend at PNC Park to forge a first-place tie, and now St. Louis is threatening to take control with three weeks to go in the regular season.
Wainwright has struggled lately, but the tall righthander was on point against the Pirates, allowing just two hits to Andrew McCutchen before handing a 4-0 lead over to the Cardinals bullpen. Wainwright struck out eight Bucs in his 100-pitch, 68-strike outing, pushing Pittsburgh to its third loss in a row.
His mound opponent Jeff Locke, making his return to the Pirates rotation, danced through trouble through five innings, but still allowed three runs, three hits and four walks. The young lefty struck out four to help minimize the damage; the Cardinals’ first three RBIs came via a sacrifice fly, an infield hit and a groundout.
A rare error by shortstop Clint Barmes opened the door for the Cardinals’ two-run fifth, then David Freese teed off for a long home run against Pirates reliever Jeanmar Gomez in the sixth. Daniel Descalso’s RBI single capped the scoring and forced Pittsburgh to look to Sunday’s game for redemption.
The Pirates had but three hits on the night, but they managed to squander a leadoff double twice. In the fourth, McCutchen drove a Wainwright pitch off the right-field wall, followed by a Justin Morneau walk. But Marlon Byrd grounded into a double play and Pedro Alvarez struck out to keep the game scoreless. In the ninth, Jose Tabata was stranded at third via similar circumstances.
Despite back-to-back defeats at Busch, the Pirates can leave town Sunday with the division lead. The streaking Charlie Morton gets the call for Pittsburgh, while St. Louis will send rookie Michael Wacha to the mound for the 2:05 Eastern time start.