Wainwright shines in second career shutout vs. Crew

Ace went 3-for-3 with two RBIs, surrendered just four hits

Wainwright shines in second career shutout vs. Crew

ST. LOUIS -- Adam Wainwright captivated a Cardinal fan base last month when he tearfully attempted to express the significance of showing up to work at Busch Stadium each season. Seventeen days later, Wainwright returned to pitch under the shadow of the Gateway Arch for the first time since that press conference, which had been called to celebrate a contract extension for the organization's ace.

He'd make the homecoming momentous.

Wainwright twirled his second career shutout against the Brewers, extending the pitching staff's string of scoreless innings to 32 with the 8-0 win on Saturday. With a sellout crowd of 44,696 on hand, Wainwright complemented his masterful pitching performance with a three-hit, two-RBI afternoon at the plate. Two of those hits came in the sixth, an inning during which the Cardinals scored seven times.

"I felt kind of like it was high school," Wainwright said afterward. "I used to be able to hit a little bit, so it's nice to every now and then put a good swing on the ball. That was a fun game."

Wainwright carved up a Milwaukee offense hampered by injuries to several key starters. A day after Shelby Miller threw 77 percent of his 113 pitches for strikes, Wainwright's percentage wasn't far behind. He was efficient in needing only 115 pitches and threw 84 of them for strikes. Wainwright matched his career high with 12 strikeouts (11 swinging) to bump his season total to 24. He has yet to walk a batter in three starts.

Adding an improved changeup to his repertoire and varying his pitch sequencing has seemingly made Wainwright -- already among the league's elite -- even more formidable. On Saturday, he garnered strikeouts on four different pitches -- his sinker, cutter, four-seam fastball and curveball.

"That was exactly how you design pitching," manager Mike Matheny said. "This year, he's back to himself. He's healthy. I think he has evolved as a pitcher. I think seasons like last year teach you how to pitch more than just rely on stuff. He's expanding a little bit."

Milwaukee never advanced a runner to third against Wainwright, whose shutout was preserved by a pair of defensive plays behind him. Center fielder Jon Jay likely saved a run with his diving catch in the fifth. Making his first start of the season at short, Daniel Descalso made a terrific diving stop, and Allen Craig finished the tough pick at first to get Martin Maldonado in the seventh.

"He's working hard out there," Descalso said. "With a guy at second base, I'm doing everything I can to keep the ball from going into the outfield. Luckily, I was able to get the out at first, too."

With the Cardinals already leading by eight at that point, the play essentially meant little to the outcome. However, that wasn't evident in Wainwright's emphatic reaction as he greeted Descalso walking to the dugout. Clearly, Wainwright was gunning for the shutout.

"It's always fun to pitch a complete-game shutout," Wainwright said. "I've done it against the Brewers a couple times now. I don't know what it is about that team. I think they make me focus more, because they have guys that are really dangerous. I'm fortunate enough to do it against a team like that, and especially at home. I love doing it at home."

In securing the shutout two innings later, Wainwright became the second Cardinals starter in the team's last three games to blank the opponent. Jake Westbrook shut out the Reds on Wednesday. In between, Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Mitchell Boggs combined to hold the Brewers scoreless in the first game of this series.

The three straight shutouts is a first for the organization since September 1988. The Cardinals last allowed a run in the fourth inning on Tuesday. Since then, the pitching staff has given up only 14 hits.

"I said it in the beginning of the season to [pitching coach Derek Lilliquist], that this league doesn't really know what kind of arms we have in our rotation right now," said Wainwright, who anchors a starting rotation that has eight quality starts and a 1.99 ERA through the season's first 11 games. "We have some great arms. The world is seeing that now."

The Brewers are streaking as well, but in the other direction. Milwaukee, which is missing Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart and didn't have Alex Gonzalez on Saturday because he was hit by a pitch on Friday, hasn't scored in its last 25 innings.

"The biggest thing right now is that we don't have everybody in our lineup," second baseman Rickie Weeks said. "That's not making excuses. We are facing some really good pitching."

With four hits on Saturday, the Brewers tallied only one more than Wainwright, whose third-inning single drove in the game's first run. Wainwright then started the sixth with his second of three singles. The Cardinals would go on to send 11 batters to the plate in the inning.

Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina and Jay followed with RBI hits. Wainwright drove in a run later in the inning, too, as he became the first Cardinals pitcher since Braden Looper (Aug. 6, 2007) to record two hits in one innings.

Five earned runs were charged to Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo, who fell to 1-10 in his career against St. Louis.

"He's got great stuff, always has," Matheny said. "These guys just always seem to put together some pretty tough at-bats. When our offense is going right, we're taking their pitches or we're fouling them off and making them come into the middle of the plate."

Though the season is still in its infancy, the Cardinals' offense has shown a propensity for scoring in bunches. Saturday's seven-run sixth marked the sixth time this season that the Cardinals have scored four or more runs in a frame.

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