DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies had an opportunity to inflict major damage on St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in the first inning Wednesday night.
Instead, the Rockies had to settle for two runs, as Wainwright quickly regrouped and found his pitching groove as the Cardinals beat the Rockies 4-3.
The victory enabled the Cardinals to extend their lead in the National League Central to two games over the Pittsburgh Pirates, who lost their third straight game at home to San Diego, falling 3-2 when the Padres scored twice in the ninth inning.
Wainwright (17-9) gave up four straight hits and two runs to open the first. At that point, he had runners on first and second. But Wainwright, who went 3-for-3 with two RBI and one run scored, snuffed out that rally and pitched 7 2/3 innings.
Wainwright allowed three runs and 10 hits with eight strikeouts. After 121 pitches, and 89 strikes, he gave way to Trevor Rosenthal with runners on first and second. Rosenthal got Charlie Blackmon to ground out.
Pinch hitter Dexter Fowler opened the ninth with a single against closer Edward Mujica. Corey Dickerson sacrificed Fowler to second. DJ LeMahieu flied to right. Pitching carefully, Mujica fell behind Troy Tulowitzki 2-0 and then intentionally walked him.
Charlie Culberson hit a bad-hop single off third baseman Daniel Descalso, loading the bases for Todd Helton. Mujica struck him out to earn his 37th save in 40 opportunities.
In 11 games, including six starts, against the Rockies, Wainwright is 6-1 with a 1.50 ERA. At Coors Field, he is 2-0 with a 2.21 ERA in three games, two starts.
The Rockies cut the Cardinals' lead to 4-3 in the sixth when Helton led off with a double and scored when Blackmon poked a ball inside third base for an opposite-field, two-out double.
Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood (7-5) gave up eight hits and four runs in six innings and got 13 outs on ground balls.
Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer left the game after the sixth with a right forearm contusion and is listed day-to-day. He went 1-for-3, keeping his average at .331 and his lead over Atlanta's Chris Johnson in the National League batting race at four points.
Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams left the game in the seventh with right elbow soreness.
Yadier Molina gave the Cardinals a 4-2 lead with two outs in the fifth when he rifled a ball into the gap in right-center, scoring Matt Holliday, who had doubled with one out. Molina was thrown out, trying to stretch his hit into a double.
Adam Wainwright entered the game with three RBI in 64 at-bats this season and drove in a run on each of his first two at-bats. He put the Cardinals ahead 3-2 in the fourth with a two-out single that scored Molina, who led off with a double.
The Rockies began the first with four consecutive hits off Wainwright, which netted two runs. The Cardinals did the same with one out in the third, stringing together four straight hits off Tyler Chatwood for two runs.
Wainwright doubled home the first St. Louis run after Daniel Descalso's ground-rule double. Matt Carpenter followed with a run-scoring single and took third on Jon Jay's single before Chatwood got two ground outs.
Troy Tulowitzki singled home two runs after Corey Dickerson led off the first with a single and DJ LeMahieu doubled. After Michael Cuddyer singled, Helton grounded into a 3-6-1 double play, and Wainwright stranded a runner at third when Jordan Pacheco lined to first.
Wainwright piled up seven strikeouts over the next four innings, the biggest coming when he struck out Dickerson to end the fourth with runners on first and second.
NOTES: Cardinals RF Carlos Beltran was given the night off. In 12 games since moving from the No. 2 spot in the order to cleanup, following a foot injury to Allen Craig, who typically bats fourth, Beltran has hit .171 with a .280 on-base percentage and .244 slugging percentage and just three extra-base hits. ? Neither Cardinals RHP Joe Kelly nor manager Mike Matheny expect Kelly to miss his next start. He came out after five scoreless innings Tuesday due to soreness in his right calf near his knee. ... Rockies C Wilin Rosario and 3B Nolan Arenado are expected to be out of the lineup for a few days. Rosario left Tuesday night's game after the second inning with a right calf strain. Arenado has been dealing with a bone bruise on his right thumb and left Monday night's game after batting once. ... Rockies RHP Rafael Betancourt underwent successful Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. The operation was performed by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., and will sideline Betancourt, 38, for the entire 2014 season.