Wainwright allowed a run over six innings and the Cardinals manufactured two runs on a day when they didn't have much thunder in their bats. That was enough for a 2-1 win over the Nationals and a sweep of a three-game weekend series. And it was enough to turn Wainwright's 28th birthday, not to mention his bobblehead day, into his 16th win of the season.
On a day like this, Wainwright knew he couldn't lose.
"I can't do that to the family and to the team and to the fans," he said with a smile afterward. "It was a big win."
Though he was inefficient, Wainwright was plenty effective to record win No. 16, which leads the Major Leagues. He recorded his 26th straight start of at least six innings, and his 13th in a row with two earned runs or fewer. All of which is to say, it was Wainwright's day by just about any measure.
Except that it almost wasn't. Though he held a 1-0 lead through five innings, a pair of walks and a two-out single in the sixth tied the game. And with his pitch count at 109 -- quite steep for six innings -- that was Wainwright's final inning. He needed some help from his offense, and he got it. Colby Rasmus stroked a one-out single, took second on a wild pitch and came home to score on Albert Pujols' single, giving St. Louis the lead for good against Washington starter Garrett Mock.
"I knew eventually our offense would [come through]," said Wainwright, who referred to the run as his birthday present from Pujols. "We've just got such a talented team. Mock was throwing a great game, but I knew our guys would get to him or get to somebody. At that point it just becomes trying to outlast the other guy."
Most of the Cards' lineup was kept quiet by Mock, but Rasmus and Pujols did just enough to deliver the runs for the victory. Two innings before the go-ahead run, Rasmus led off the fourth with a single. He motored all the way to third on Pujols' infield hit and scored on a Rick Ankiel sacrifice fly.
"It was a hit-and-run, so I just took off," Rasmus said. "I peeked in and saw that [Pujols] hit a chopper. When I went around, I was looking for [shortstop Cristian] Guzman to see where he was. He was close to me, so I figured that if I just stayed right behind him, it was going to be hard for him to catch the ball and tag me at the same time. So I just kept going."
It took a play like that -- and two big hits from Pujols -- to get the job done against a very sharp Mock. The Cards were impressed with the youngster, who struck out five against one walk.
"The pitch that's going to cost me some sleep tonight is the one that [Pujols] got a hit on that scored the second run," Mock said. "I wasn't trying to throw the ball there, obviously. Not trying to throw the ball anywhere where he could hit it. I feel like I did do a good job of executing my pitches today, but that particular pitch, I've got to be better than that."
Kyle McClellan, Trever Miller and Ryan Franklin combined for three shutout innings of relief for the Redbirds. St. Louis finished August with a 20-6 record for the month, which is a franchise record for winning percentage in August at .769. It's the third-most wins by a Cardinals team in August, behind only the 1967 and 2004 clubs, which each won 21.
St. Louis has won seven of its past eight games, 14 out of 17, and 24 out of 31. The Cards' lead increased to a gaping 10 games over the second-place Cubs in the National League Central.
"It's huge," Franklin said of the hot streak. "Especially when the teams underneath us are scuffling a little bit. Way to put distance. You can't say enough about how much we've accomplished so far. We still haven't gotten there yet, though."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.