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The Associated Press

St. Louis Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha believes his college background helps him focus on the mound.

He could face a distraction because of it before his next outing Saturday night.

The Texas A&M product has thrown 19 2-3 scoreless innings heading into this home matchup with the Seattle Mariners.

Wacha (3-0, 2.72 ERA) cruised through seven innings and drove in two runs at the plate in Sunday's 9-2 home victory over Pittsburgh. He said the pressure of pitching in such a big game in September didn't bother him because of his experience leading the Aggies to the College World Series.

"It helped me going to A&M and playing in those big-time games and I guess gets me prepared for it," Wacha said. "So I just try not to think too much. I go out there and try to go out there and just trust myself."

It is unclear if the right-hander plans to watch any of Saturday's titanic college football game between the sixth-ranked Aggies and No. 1 Alabama - a contest that figures to end less an hour before Wacha throws his first pitch.

His victory Sunday was his first in four home starts for St. Louis (86-61), which moved one game ahead of Pittsburgh in the NL Central race with a 2-1, 10-inning win in Friday's series opener.

Pete Kozma scored the winning run on a passed ball by Mike Zunino for the Cardinals, who finished with four hits.

"We'll take them any way we can get them right now,'' manager Mike Matheny said. "The guys are showing a lot of heart and that means something."

While St. Louis has won its last four extra-inning games, Seattle (65-82) has dropped its last six such contests.

Besides Zunino's passed ball, the Mariners also failed to execute in the ninth inning when pinch-runner Endy Chavez and Dustin Ackley were both caught stealing by Yadier Molina. In addition, second baseman Nick Franklin dropped a pop fly for a two-base error that led to the Cardinals' first run in the eighth inning.

"It's our youth," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "You saw it again. Multiple plays that have to be made."

Molina's Gold Glove defense came at a time when he's mired in a 4-for-31 slump. Jon Jay is in a 6-for-34 slide, David Freese a 7-for-34 downturn and Carlos Beltran a 3-for-17 skid.

Matt Carpenter has reached base in 13 straight games, batting .373 with 14 runs scored. The Cardinals remain without Allen Craig, whose return in the regular season is uncertain due to a sprained left foot.

Wacha will actually be the more experienced pitcher with six career starts Saturday compared to the Mariners' James Paxton (1-0, 1.50), who made his big league debut last Saturday and gave up two runs in six innings in a 6-2 home victory over Tampa Bay.

"Early on I was a little amped up, but I felt I got in a groove and was able to narrow my focus," Paxton told the Mariners' official website. "It was just another baseball game, just a nicer stadium."

The 24-year-old left-hander is a 2010 Mariners fourth-round draft pick who also may like his SEC football since he pitched in college at Kentucky.

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