Wednesday’s Game Report: Cardinals 5, Nationals 1

Wednesday’s Game Report: Cardinals 5, Nationals 1

By Rob Rains

To Adam Wainwright, there is only one thing better than pitching meaningful games in September: doing it in October.

Wainwright hasn’t had the chance to do that in almost four years, but he is doing his personal best to push the Cardinals into the postseason for the first time since 2015 with games like the one he pitched on Wednesday at Busch Stadium.

He allowed only one unearned run over seven innings in out-dueling Max Scherzer for the win. Combined with the Reds 10-inning win over the Cubs on Wednesday night, the Cardinals will carry a three-game lead into their four-game series against the Cubs that begins on Thursday night in Chicago. The Brewers also lost Wednesday night and fell three games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central as they remained tied with the Cubs.

“That’s as good as it gets right there – in the regular season,” Wainwright said. “September, down the stretch, that’s the kind of stuff I live for.”

For Wainwright, the start came at the confluence of two amazing streaks – his recent string of almost perfect starts in September, and his performance in day games at home this season.

Wainwright improved to 4-0 in four September starts he which he has allowed a total of two runs in 27 innings, only one of them earned. He’s been even better in day games at Busch – improving to 6-0 with only three runs allowed, two earned, in 41 innings.

“You don’t explain weird stuff like that,” Wainwright said. “There’s no way to wrap your brain around that except to say that this is a crazy game.”

Crazy like the Cardinals being 0-6 so far this season in Chicago.

“We’ve saved up all of our wins until now,” said Wainwright, the only one of the five Cardinals’ starters who won’t be pitching this weekend. “It’s going to be fun to sit back and be able to go to a couple of nice dinners and cheer the boys on at Wrigley; not get booed as much as I normally do.”

For manager Mike Shildt, he expects one thing from his team this weekend – to continue to play exactly as they have played the second half of the season.

“We don’t have to do anything different,” Shildt said. “I wouldn’t trade our player preparation with anybody; it’s really what you rely on. You trust it, you execute it. Go play the game.”

Here is how Thursday’s game broke down:

At the plate: Tommy Edman got the Cardinals’ first hit off Scherzer when he homered with one out in the third in his first regular-season at-bat against Scherzer … Edman, starting in right field, also threw out a runner at the plate before he added another hit and RBI with a single in the seventh as the Cardinals’ stretched a 2-1 lead into a 5-1 advantage when Matt Wieters followed Edman’s hit with a pinch-hit home run in his first at-bat since he suffered a leg injury on Aug. 31 … It was the first pinch-hit home run of Wieters’ career and the 10th by the Cardinals this season … Matt Carpenter got the start at third base and doubled leading off the fifth which led to the Cardinals’ second run … Edman’s RBI single, which followed a double by Paul DeJong when Juan Soto lost a fly ball in the sun, was the Cardinals’ only hit with a runner in scoring position. They were 1-of-7 in the game and won two of the three games in the series despite going a combined 3-of-28 with a man on second or third.

On the mound: Wainwright scattered eight hits over his seven innings. He walked one and struck out three. An error by Dexter Fowler led to the Nationals only run in the seventh but Fowler redeemed himself with two outstanding catches, including robbing Asdrubal Cabrera of a three-run homer off Andrew Miller in the eighth … Cardinals’ starters have not allowed more than three runs in their last 16 games, posting a combined ERA of 1.61 over that stretch … Carlos Martinez got the final four outs, all on ground balls, to record his 21st save.

Key stat: The current Cardinals’ roster had a combined total of three home runs in 188 career at-bats against Scherzer coming into the game, two by Marcell Ozuna and one by Yairo Munoz. The only home run hit by the Cardinals in four games against Scherzer at Busch Stadium was hit by Brandon Moss in 2015.

Worth noting: Edman became the 10th Cardinal with 10 or more home runs this season, the first time that has happened in franchise history … Edman also became the only player this season to hit home runs off both Josh Hader and Scherzer, and he did it in a span of 10 at-bats … Edman had confidence facing Scherzer because of a leadoff triple he hit against him in spring training in March … The loss was the first by Scherzer in his hometown since he was a rookie with Arizona in 2008.

Looking ahead: Here are the pitching matchups for the four games against the Cubs: Thursday night, Jack Flaherty against Kyle Hendricks; Friday, Michael Wacha against Jose Quintana; Saturday, Dakota Hudson against Cole Hamels, and Sunday, Miles Mikolas against Yu Darvish.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out Rob Rains, Editor.