CINCINNATI — Adam Wainwright won 19 games last season and finished second in the NL Cy Young voting. So far, his encore is even better.
Wainwright became the National League’s first eight-game winner by dominating Cincinnati again, and the St. Louis Cardinals pulled away to a 4-0 victory Sunday night that completed another successful series against their division rival.
The Cardinals are 6-3 against the Reds this season. They’ve won 10 of their last 11 series together.
Overall, St. Louis has won nine of its last 11 games and moved within 1 1/2 games of first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central.
Wainwright (8-2) beat Johnny Cueto and the Reds on opening day in Cincinnati, allowing only three hits during seven innings of a 1-0 victory. On Sunday, the right-hander gave up five hits in eight innings and matched his career high with 12 strikeouts.
"That’s the epitome of pitching, in my opinion," manager Mike Matheny said. "The people watching today maybe on the national (television) game, I hope they had an appreciation for what this guy does and how he does it."
Wainwright set the tone by striking out five of the first six batters on a total of 24 pitches. He got Brandon Phillips on three pitches that clocked 73, 91 and 93 mph.
The one disappointment for Wainwright last season was his rough showing against the Reds — 1-3 in four starts with a 7.77 ERA. He’s fixed that problem.
"Last year I was a one-side-of-the-plate pitcher and they just crushed me," Wainwright said. "This year, I’m pitching a lot differently. I’m using both sides of the plate."
Tony Cruz and Kolten Wong each had a pair of singles and drove in a run off Mike Leake (2-4). Wong also stole a pair of bases.
The game drew 42,273 fans, the Reds’ third sellout crowd of the season. All three sellouts have come against the Cardinals.
Leake went six innings and continued his streak of solid pitching. The right-hander hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of his last five starts, giving up a total of eight earned runs.
With Wainwright on his game again, it was two runs too much. Wainwright lowered his ERA to 1.67. In his last two starts, he has given up only six hits and no runs in 17 innings.
"I’ve never felt like this," the 31-year-old pitcher said. "That’s part of of the evolution of me. I expected to get better as I got older, and a little wiser.
"Now that I’m over 30 years old, I don’t think there’s any reason for me to start to decline. I think I should still try to get better and expect to get better."
Cruz led off the third inning with a single and advanced on Wainwright’s sacrifice bunt. Wong singled up the middle with two outs for a run.
Matt Adams singled, Allen Craig walked and Cruz singled home a run with two outs in the sixth. The Cardinals added a pair of runs in the seventh with the help of two errors by the Reds, who lead the majors in fielding percentage.
Wainwright pitched out of Cincinnati’s best threat in the fifth, when the Reds got runners to second and third with two outs. He got Billy Hamilton on a called third strike to end the inning.
Hamilton struck out four times against Wainwright on opening day and three more times Sunday, leaving him 0 for 7 with seven strikeouts and a walk off the right-hander.
NOTES: The Cardinals return home for an afternoon game against the Yankees on Monday, with Michael Wacha (3-3) facing Chase Whitley (0-1). The Reds fly to Los Angeles for an evening game against the Dodgers, sending Cueto (4-3) against Hyun-Jin Ryu (4-2). … Wong extended his hitting streak to seven games. … C Yadier Molina got a day of rest. … OF Peter Bourjos was better, but still out of the lineup a day after he got a stomach virus. … RHP Mat Latos made his first rehab start for Triple-A Louisville on Sunday, allowing three hits and two runs in four innings. The Reds want him to make at least two more starts in the minors. … RF Jay Bruce went 1 for 12 with seven strikeouts during the series, which marked his return from torn knee cartilage.