Cards climb into tie for second NL Wild Card

Cards climb into tie for second NL Wild Card

Cards climb into tie for second NL Wild Card
ST. LOUIS -- All season long, manager Mike Matheny has talked about the potential his club has to make a run. The tools have been in place, but too often the different components needed for a win haven't been in unison.

The Cardinals put it all together on Wednesday night in a 5-2 win over the D-backs before a crowd of 33,572 at Busch Stadium. St. Louis caught Pittsburgh for second place in the division and for a share of the second National League Wild Card spot in the process.

"It was a good mix, there's no question," Matheny said. "It took a little while to get started, that's not that unusual for our team, as well. But it seems once we do get a little something, the guys jump on board."

Another solid outing from Adam Wainwright, timely hits and three perfect innings from the bullpen made for the Cardinals' second straight win against Arizona.

After they were limited to one hit through the first three innings, the Cardinals scored in each of the next three frames. The D-backs took an early lead behind Paul Goldschmidt's towering solo homer in the fourth, but David Freese answered with a two-run shot of his own in the bottom half of the inning to put St. Louis ahead.

The home run was Freese's first this month. He entered the game 0-for-17 in his previous six games, but said he wasn't concerned about the mini-slump. Freese was more focused on getting the next good pitch to hit.

"For me, it's just approach. It's about staying in the strike zone," Freese said. "I feel like I'm a .300 hitter if I stay in the zone. It's our job as hitters to take what pitchers give us and take our walks. You look at the best in the game and they take their walks. That's something that I'm still trying to learn and something that I'm still trying to adjust to. If I can continue to do that on a consistent basis, I think I'll get to where I want to be."

Allen Craig hit a solo homer to right-center in the fifth, and three straight two-out hits put the Cards further ahead in the sixth. Daniel Descalso and Tony Cruz collected back-to-back singles before Rafael Furcal tripled down the right-field line to give St. Louis a three-run lead.

Furcal finished 2-for-3, adding a double in the third inning. He also tripled on Tuesday night, marking the first time he collected extra-base hits in back-to-back games since the first two games of the season.

"They're a quality team," said Arizona starter Joe Saunders. "They're quality hitters and they make every out count and they don't give any at-bat away."

Wainwright turned in his sixth straight quality start and bumped his win percentage over .500 for the first time this season despite admittedly not having his best stuff. Aside from Goldschmidt's record-setting homer -- which traveled 456 feet for the longest home run by an opposing player in Busch Stadium III history -- Wainwright didn't allow another extra-base hit.

Wainwright, who brought his ERA down to a season-low 3.87, wasn't locating his fastball as well as he he has in the past but compensated with effective off-speed stuff.

"That happens sometimes," Wainwright said. "Early on I knew I was going to have to make some adjustments and that's part of pitching, part of being a professional. Going out there and finding a way to win."

Wainwright received a hand from his defense in the sixth, as the Cardinals turned a smooth 5-4-3 double play with no outs and men on first and third. One run scored, but Wainwright got out of the inning with St. Louis' one-run lead intact.

The combination of Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte didn't allow a hit and struck out four in relief. Mujica has yet to allow a run in seven appearances since making his St. Louis debut on Aug. 1.

"Coming in, executing your pitches and getting the job done ... Mujica's done a great job of that," Motte said. "Hopefully we can keep that up."

Matheny has been mum this year when asked about the happenings of other NL Central teams, and often stresses the importance of his team focusing on what it can do daily rather than what its opponents do.

But with his club at the top of the Wild Card standings, Matheny hinted at the possibilities that the future holds.

"We can't help but watch," Matheny said. "We're fans of the game, fans of the opportunity to play in October. There's no place like October baseball in St. Louis. We've got our eyes on things, but once again I think it can be a distraction and our focus has to be on playing good baseball tonight and tomorrow and each night individually."

Mike Still is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.