Cardinals' Wainwright does it all in shutout of Brewers

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- A four-hit shutout. Twelve strikeouts. Three hits and two RBI at the plate.

Anything else Adam Wainwright could have done better Saturday?

"I don't know," he said, laughing. "It felt like a high school game, back when I could still hit a little bit."

Wainwright nearly outhit the struggling Milwaukee Brewers by himself as he led the St. Louis Cardinals to its fourth straight win, an 8-0 decision at sold-out Busch Stadium.

Peppering the strike zone all day, Wainwright (2-1) tied a career high with 12 strikeouts, whiffing Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks and Logan Schafer three times each. It was fitting that the game's last out was a Wainwright punchout as he got Weeks to swing through a 2-2 fastball.

It was the fifth shutout of Wainwright's career and extended the Cardinals' scoreless innings streak to 32 1/3, dating back to the fourth inning of Tuesday night's 5-1 victory over Cincinnati.

"We say it all the time: It begins with our starting pitching," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "We can't ask them to do much more than they've been doing lately."

Cardinal starters haven't allowed four runs in a game since Lance Lynn did so in a 10-9, 16-inning loss on April 3 at Arizona. In fact, Lynn was the last starting pitcher to yield a run.

Other pitching staffs earned more notice going into the season, but players, coaches and club officials all felt St. Louis' starting rotation of Wainwright, Lynn, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook and Shelby Miller would make their presence known.

"We had an idea people would learn about our rotation," Wainwright said. "I told (pitching coach Derek Lilliquist) in spring training people would figure it out."

Wainwright threw 84 of his 115 pitches for strikes, keeping the Brewers (2-8) off-stride throughout the game. When Milwaukee did make solid contact, it found a glove as often as not.

With the game still 1-0 in the top of the fifth, center fielder Jon Jay made a spectacular diving catch to rob Martin Maldonado of extra bases. It turned out to be a run-saving grab when Yuniesky Betancourt followed with a double.

Maldonado hit in tough luck again in the seventh when his smash up the middle was snagged by shortstop Daniel Descalso, who converted his full-length dive into the third out with the help of Allen Craig's deft pick at first base.

"That's baseball, man," Weeks said. "We're missing some guys, but we can't make excuses. We're facing good pitching, but we can do a better job at the plate. It's a long season, though. What do we have, about 150 games left?"

The Brewers are playing without their No. 4 and 5 hitters, third baseman Aramis Ramirez and first baseman Corey Hart, who are on the disabled list with knee injuries. They are averaging only 3.2 runs per game.

Offensively, Wainwright also played a leading role. His single over a drawn-in infield in the third inning plated the day's first run and his two sixth-inning singles each contributed to a seven-run attack against starter Yovani Gallardo (0-1) and reliever Burke Badenhop.

Jay followed Wainwright's leadoff hit with a single and Matt Carpenter was plunked to load the bases. Matt Holliday laced a two-run single up the middle to make it 3-0. One out later, Allen Craig chased Gallardo (0-1) with an RBI single to center field.

Badenhop coughed up a run-scoring single to Yadier Molina to make it 5-0. With two outs, Descalso's grounder went through the legs of first baseman Blake Lalli for an error that upped the lead to 6-0.

Wainwright and Jay capped the outburst with RBI singles as St. Louis (7-4) stayed atop the National League Central.

While expecting the pitchers to rattle off multiple shutouts at a time might be unrealistic, the season's first two weeks are showing that the Cardinals might be able to overcome the loss of mainstays like Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse.

"It's fun to play behind guys like Waino," Jay said. "You know they're going to battle and keep you in games. It takes a lot of pressure off the offense."

NOTES: Wainwright's two-hit inning was the first for a St. Louis pitcher since Braden Looper pulled it off on August 6, 2007 in the fifth inning of a win over San Diego ... Milwaukee third baseman Alex Gonzalez (left hand contusion) didn't play Saturday after being plunked by Shelby Miller in the second inning of Friday night's game ... Cardinals pitching entered this game having allowed three runs or fewer in seven of the first 10 games. That's the first time that's occurred since 1993.
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