ST. LOUIS, Mo. (AP) The plan called for Adam Wainwright to get a little tuneup for the NL division series opener.
The right-hander was so efficient, he stayed in there long enough to earn his 19th victory, an RBI and a triumphant exit, too.
“I wanted to stay sharp,” Wainwright said after the St. Louis Cardinals showed no letup after clinching the NL Central, beating the Chicago Cubs 6-2 Saturday for their fifth straight win.
“Ten days off is too much, I think, between starts. It’s good to get in there, get some good work in, get a knock and get the win.”
Matt Holliday homered for the second day in a row and Yadier Molina drove in two runs for St. Louis (96-65), which entered the day tied with Atlanta for the NL lead in wins.
All three of them were taken out before the finish and manager Mike Matheny removed Wainwright (19-9) after getting the first out of the sixth so he’d get an ovation.
“You’ve got to tiptoe around how you do that, we want to make sure we respect the other club,” Matheny said. “It worked out fine.”
The start time was moved up three hours to avoid a forecast of storms.
The Cardinals mailed vouchers to all ticket holders, whether they attended or not, for a game in 2014. The crowd of 42,520 was a few thousand shy of a sellout.
Wainwright allowed two hits in 5 1/3 shutout innings and tied for the league lead in victories with Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann, who lost his last scheduled start Wednesday in St. Louis.
According to STATS, Wainwright is the third Cardinals pitcher to lead the league in victories twice, also doing it with 19 wins in 2009.
Dizzy Dean (1934-35) and Mort Cooper (1942-43) are the other Cardinals pitchers to twice lead the league in wins. Bob Gibson did it once.
The Cubs averted a second straight shutout loss by scoring twice in the ninth against former St. Louis closer Edward Mujica.
Anthony Rizzo led off with a homer and Donnie Murphy had an RBI double against Mujica, who has allowed 18 hits in 7 1/3 innings with two blown saves this month and lost his job to rookie Trevor Rosenthal.
Mujica has 37 saves but is in danger of getting left off the postseason roster for the first round. Matheny was noncommittal about using Mujica in the regular-season finale, saying he’d see “how he feels.”
Seth Maness earned his first career save by getting Darwin Barney on a double play ball.
Edwin Jackson (8-18) allowed six runs and eight hits in 2 2/3 innings before leaving with mild side discomfort that he said bothered him as the game went on. He leads the majors in losses.
“At the end of the day I’ve got three more years here to look forward to,” Jackson said. “I definitely look forward to changing things and changing everything around.”
The Cubs have lost 11 of 14, scoring two or fewer runs nine times in that stretch.
Wainwright got his sixth RBI of the season with a single off third baseman Donnie Murphy’s glove in a four-run third.
Wainwright entered 1-6 with a 5.16 ERA at home against the Cubs. He’s 6-0 with a 3.72 ERA at Wrigley Field.
Holliday hit his 22nd homer, a two-run drive in the first that put his average at .300 and likely won’t play Sunday to keep it there.
The Cardinals broke away in the third when Holliday and Matt Adams drew one-out walks ahead of Molina’s two-run double, and Pete Kozma had an RBI single.
NOTES: Jake Westbrook (7-8, 4.67) gets a spot start Sunday in place of Joe Kelly (9-5, 2.81), who’ll follow him in relief. Westbrook has battled elbow and back issues and has pitched once this month, and in his past four starts since July 29 has allowed 19 earned runs in 21 1/3 innings. “I’m excited to get the opportunity,” Westbrook said. “I’ve been throwing, just not as fast as it’s going to be tomorrow. Hopefully it’ll be a good day.” The Cardinals are unlikely to pick up a $9.75 million mutual option next year on the 36-year-old Westbrook. … Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.33) starts for the Cubs. … Molina has four hits and five RBIs in the first two games of the series, giving him a team-leading 16 RBIs against the Cubs. … According to STATS, Jackson is among four pitchers since 2000 to throw a no-hitter and later lose 17 or more games. Also on the list are Ubaldo Jimenez last year, Derek Lowe in 2011 and Justin Verlander in 2008, all with 17 losses.