Friday, May 16, 2014
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Wacha's Start Brings Relief To Cardinals In Win

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[May 16, 2014]  ST. LOUIS -- Its bullpen heavily taxed by a string of short starts and a 12-inning game on Tuesday night, St. Louis needed more than Wednesday night's rainout to give it some rest.

Enter starter Michael Wacha and his longest outing in nearly a month.

The young right-hander worked seven solid innings on Thursday for his first win in just over a month and also helped his cause offensively with a key hit in a four-run second inning as the Cardinals dumped the Chicago Cubs 5-3 at Busch Stadium.

In going seven innings for the first time since a 3-1 loss on April 18 at Washington, Wacha (3-3) scattered seven hits and allowed two runs while walking none and striking out five. It was his first win since beating Chicago 6-4 on April 13.

While he entered the game with a good ERA of 2.85, Wacha was averaging less than six innings per start.

"Walks definitely drive your pitch count up," he said. "I was able to pound the strike zone and stay down in the zone. I was able to keep them off-balance."

By the time he made his one real mistake, a one-strike fastball that shortstop Starlin Castro lined into the left field seats for a two-run homer in the top of the fourth, Wacha already had all the runs he needed.

Wacha provided a couple of them with one swing of his previously hitless bat. He slapped a 3-2 fastball from Jason Hammel up the middle for a two-run single, scoring right fielder Allen Craig and center fielder Peter Bourjos for a 3-0 advantage in the second.

It was Wacha's first hit in 15 at-bats.

"I wasn't real sure what to look for," Wacha said. "I put a good swing on it and somehow squeaked it into center field."

Third baseman Matt Carpenter then snapped an 0-for-16 slide with a double off the right-center field wall, scoring Wacha to cap the outburst.

It was enough to give Hammel (4-2) the loss in an outing that snapped his season-opening stretch of seven consecutive quality starts. Hammel had himself to blame for the second, issuing walks to Craig and Bourjos after a one-out double by catcher Yadier Molina.

Hammel left after Molina's one-out RBI single in the sixth, having allowed five hits and five runs in 5 1/3 innings with two walks and six strikeouts.

The Cubs (13-26) nearly took Hammel off the hook in the eighth, scoring a run on a sacrifice fly by left fielder Junior Lake and loading the bases with two outs for pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz.

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But closer Trevor Rosenthal broke Schierholtz's bat on a grounder to second, then rolled through the ninth for his 11th save in 12 chances as St. Louis (21-20) won its second straight game.

Chicago outhit the Cardinals 8-6, with Castro going 3-for-4 and first baseman Anthony Rizzo singling twice. Both were bunt hits down the third base line as the lefty-swinging Rizzo took advantage of an overshifted infield defense.

"Wacha's a great pitcher, so if you can get him throwing from the stretch, maybe you can get him out of rhythm," Rizzo said. "If the defense is giving you that entire side, take it."

But that was not enough to beat a pitcher who gave St. Louis what it needed.

"It was important," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Wacha's performance. "We had a short leash going on him into the seventh, but what he did allowed us to give Carlos (Martinez) a day off. Michael was good and his hit gave us a huge boost."

NOTES: St. Louis 2B Kolten Wong, who was sent home from the stadium before Wednesday night's game was postponed with a stomach illness, was available Thursday but did not start. Mark Ellis got the call. ... Chicago came into Thursday's game leading the National League in most pitches per plate appearance at 3.95. The Cardinals are second at 3.87. ... Cubs CF Emilio Bonifacio is the only MLB player with three games of four hits or more this year.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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