Adam Wainwright was given a huge early cushion against a team that’s been pushed around for months, and did not let it go to his head.
The St. Louis Cardinals right-hander just kept mowing them down.
Wainwright matched his career high with 12 strikeouts in a five-hitter and the Cardinals punished rookie Lucas Harrell with six runs in the first three innings, getting over an excruciating 19-inning loss two days earlier with a 7-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
”I tried to keep them off the basepaths,” Wainwright said. ”Sometimes a young team like that is most dangerous when they’re behind, so I told myself `Don’t let up, don’t let your focus go, keep making pitches.”’
Skip Schumaker and Yadier Molina had two RBI apiece for the Cardinals, who got six hits the first seven at-bats in a four-run first and then capitalized on a pair of walks to open a two-run third. Jon Jay had three hits and an RBI.
”We’re not thinking about the other day,” Schumaker said. ”It’s why you play 162. I know a lot of people are bringing that up, but we haven’t thought about that. We’re trying to beat the Astros.”
Wainwright (12-10) threw his second shutout and third complete game of the season. Two of the complete games have come during a string of six consecutive victories at home with a 1.42 ERA. He pitched a five-hitter on Aug. 4, a 6-1 victory over the Brewers.
”He’s fun to watch,” manager Mike Matheny said. ”He thrives on those opportunities to lead by example.”
Wainwright is 12-1 with a 1.58 ERA for his career against Houston. The Astros got two-out hits in the ninth from Justin Maxwell and Jason Castro in a bid to spoil the shutout before Wainwright fanned Ben Francisco on his 105th pitch.
”Oh my God, he was doing so good today,” Astros leadoff man Jose Altuve said after going 1 for 4. ”He threw every pitch he wanted in every location he wanted.”
The Astros have been outscored 15-1 in two games under interim manager Tony DeFrancesco, who held a team meeting prior to the game in an effort to lift the stripped-down franchise out of the doldrums. Houston is just 7-41 since June 28.
Tyler Greene, a former Cardinals first-round pick dealt to Houston earlier this year for a player to be named, struck out twice and grounded out in his first game in St. Louis as a visitor.
Harrell (10-9) had allowed two or fewer runs in each of his last seven starts, but balked home the first run and got a visit from pitching coach Doug Brocail after facing just five hitters. The right-hander retired just five of the first 15 batters before settling down, allowing a walk and sacrifice fly the last 10 hitters.
Harrell is from Springfield, Mo., and made his first career start in Missouri and a large contingent of family and friends were waiting outside the clubhouse after the game. He beat the Cardinals in his first two starts this season.
”That’s why it’s frustrating and disappointing,” Harrell said. ”I feel like I let a lot of people down. That’s definitely not my best and I can’t wait to come back here and have a better outing.”
The day after their 6-3, 19-inning loss to the Pirates – the longest game in the majors this season – Matheny led a delegation to help rebuild tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo., and other Cardinals played charity golf.
”I think everybody was pretty busy yesterday,” Matheny said before the game. ”It was a good day to get involved in the community and get some positive things done.”
Jay doubled to start the bottom of the first, and with one out St. Louis got five straight singles from Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, David Freese, Molina and Schumaker. Craig and Freese walked to start the third, Molina followed with an RBI single and Rafael Furcal added a sacrifice fly.
The Astros were shut out for the 12th time.
Wainwright has five career double-digit strikeouts games and this was the first since May 25, 2010, at San Diego. … Bud Norris (5-10, 5.23) is 7-3 for his career against the Cardinals heading into Wednesday night’s start against Kyle Lohse (12-2, 2.61). … Carlos Beltran, 4 for 23 on the homestand and bothered by a right hand injury, missed his second start in three games but is not expected to be out long. … The Cardinals are 56-14 when scoring more than three runs. … Craig had a single to extend his hitting streak to 10 games and also walked three times. … Craig is 10 for 23 (.435) against Houston this season and 21-48 for his career with five homers and 17 RBIs. … Altuve is a career .393 hitter (22 for 56) against St. Louis.