Shaky early, Wacha uses DPs to cruise late

Defense behind Cardinals right-hander helps tip scales away from Cubs

Shaky early, Wacha uses DPs to cruise late

ST. LOUIS -- A read of the final box score would suggest that Saturday's 8-1 Cardinals win over the Cubs featured few dramatics -- which was true by the end. However, the complexion of a game that eventually turned into the team's fifth straight win changed long before the Cardinals posted back-to-back four-run innings.

After squandering a bases-loaded opportunity in the first, the Cardinals watched the Cubs piece together promising run-scoring opportunities in each of the next three innings. The Cardinals squashed each with an inning-ending double play.

"The defense all night was just incredible," starter and benefactor Michael Wacha said afterward. "I got myself into some tough spots there early in the game. My defense bailed me out in those innings."

An RBI single by opposing starter Donn Roach gave Chicago a 1-0 lead in the second, but Wacha skirted further trouble by getting a double play off the bat of Addison Russell.

The Cubs were unable to score in the third after putting runners on first and third with no outs, or in the fourth, when another runner reached third, this time with one out. Double plays closed both frames, with the fourth-inning twin killing being especially impressive.

Wacha earns 10th victory

It began with a throw home by first baseman Xavier Scruggs to get Starlin Castro in a rundown. Once third baseman Matt Carpenter had tagged Castro, he threw to second, where Kolten Wong had alertly scampered back to so he could make the tag on Mike Baxter.

"I was calling for it," Wong said. "I kind of had an idea of where he was, and after I saw Carp make the tag, I thought, 'Why not try it?' Luckily, it went our way."

In four innings on Saturday, Wacha induced as many double plays as he had in the 88 1/3 innings he had pitched previously this season.

"It was right on time, helping Michael out of binds," manager Mike Matheny said. "[It] also helped his pitch count so we could keep him out there."

For the Cubs, the missed opportunities continue to pile up. Over their last four games, all losses, the Cubs are 4-for-27 with runners in scoring position.

After escaping all the early trouble, Wacha settled in and retired the final six batters he faced. With the Cardinals ahead by seven, Matheny pulled Wacha after six innings (92 pitches) as part of the team's initiative to bank some innings to be used later in the year.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.