Wainwright, Cardinals blank Nationals for second straight win

CardsAdam Wainwright extended his sterling start to the season – and Washington’s mediocre one – by coming within two outs of his second shutout, leading the St. Louis Cardinals past the Nationals 2-0 Tuesday night.

The right-hander (4-1) lowered his ERA to 1.93 by going 8 1-3 scoreless innings, allowing only five hits.

Edward Mujica got the final two outs for his third save.

Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran drove in runs in the fourth off Nationals lefty Ross Detwiler (1-1), who gave up eight hits across six innings.

The Nationals, who led the majors with 98 wins last season and were a popular pick to do well in 2013, lost for the eighth time in their past 11 games to fall to 10-10.

How in command has Wainwright been? His walk to Bryce Harper with two outs in the sixth was the pitcher’s first free pass of the season, and it came in his fifth start, after 34 2-3 innings. That loaded the bases for Washington, but no matter: Wainwright struck out Adam LaRoche swinging with a high, 94 mph fastball. Catcher Yadier Molina pumped his fist.

In all, Wainwright struck out nine batters – LaRoche, four times, including in the ninth after Harper’s leadoff double – and had that lone walk.

For the Cardinals, this represents their first two-game ”winning streak” in a while: They had alternated wins and losses over the previous nine games.

Washington, meanwhile, dropped its fifth consecutive home game, and there even were scattered chants of ”Let’s go, Cardinals!” among the announced crowd of 29,986.

Before the game, Nationals manager Davey Johnson spoke about some of his hitters and pitchers ”trying to do too much,” perhaps as a result of the expectations the club faced entering the season, something unprecedented for the franchise since it moved from Montreal in 2005.

”Maybe from everybody picking us as a candidate to win our division,” Johnson said, ”everybody’s trying to be a little better than they need to be, instead of just relaxing, going out there and doing what you’re capable of doing.”

Of course, it was Johnson who came up with the phrase ”World Series or bust” to describe what the Nationals have said will be his final season as their manager.

”They win ballgames; I lose ’em. I ain’t doing too good here, lately. There’s nothing really you can say about it,” Johnson added. ”Just keep a positive attitude.”

Detwiler weaved his way in and out of the first three innings, each of which ended with a groundball double play, including a nifty one started by second baseman Danny Espinosa with a backhanded flip from his glove to shortstop Ian Desmond.

A fourth – and unusual – double play came in the fifth inning, when Wainwright’s sacrifice bunt with a man on first was fielded by third baseman Anthony Rendon, who threw to Espinosa covering first base for one out. The runner, Pete Kozma, kept going, and Espinosa threw to Detwiler covering third to get him out, too.

In the only early inning without a double play, the fourth, the Cardinals got to Detwiler with four consecutive opposite-field hits by right-handed batters, including the run-scoring double by Craig and single by Beltran.

Wainwright, in contrast, had a much easier time.

He needed all of four pitches to record three outs in the fifth inning, for example, as Desmond, Anthony Rendon and Espinosa all grounded out. That gave Wainwright 13 consecutive outs.

And he took only five pitches to get through the seventh against that same trio.

— Associated Press —