ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Michael Wacha is glad he's graduated to a pennant race.
After finishing his college career at Texas A&M just over a year ago, the rookie pitched seven shutout innings and drove in two runs as the St. Louis Cardinals routed the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-2 Sunday for a three-game sweep.
The Cardinals outscored Pittsburgh 26-10 overall in taking the NL Central lead.
"It helped me going to A&M and playing in those big-time games and I guess gets me prepared for it," Wacha said. "So I just try not to think too much. I go out there and try to go out there and just trust myself. It ended up working out pretty well."
The Pirates arrived at Busch Stadium this weekend with a 1 1/2-game division lead and a chance to cement their first winning season since 1992. They left trailing the Cardinals by 1 1/2 games and still stuck on 81 victories.
This was the last time this season Pittsburgh and St. Louis were scheduled to play.
Wacha (3-0) allowed two hits and walked two, both of which were erased on double plays. He struck out two and never had more than one runner on at a time.
Wacha hasn't allowed a run in 19 2-3 consecutive innings.
"A young pitcher coming in and just staying within himself, really establishing the strike zone early," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It seemed like he made some really good pitches as he got deeper into the game. He's just making pitches all day. It's impressive."
Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton (7-4) left with discomfort in his left foot in the second inning. He allowed five runs on six hits and two walks in 1 2-3 innings.
Morton left for Pittsburgh before the game was over and won't join the team in Texas where it starts a three-game series Monday.
Manager Clint Hurdle said he didn't know the extent of Morton's injury. Hurdle said Morton was hurt when he was backing up a base.
"We weren't sharp in any particular area of the game all weekend," Hurdle said. "They were much sharper than us across the board. It's very difficult to win a game when you are not functioning."
Morton hadn't surrendered more than two runs since the Cardinals tagged him for five in a 13-0 victory on Aug. 1 in Pittsburgh. He went on to win his next three decisions over five starts, including a no-decision after giving up two runs in seven innings on Aug. 13 at St. Louis.
Wacha got his second career hit with a single up the middle on the first pitch he saw from Vin Mazzaro in a four-run fifth that scored David Freese and Matt Adams. St. Louis used 10 batters in the 28-minute inning - exactly how long Wacha needed to get through six innings of pitching.
"That was a lot of fun," Wacha said of his hit. "I told myself that I was going to hop on the first heater. I was able to sneak it by the shortstop up the middle. I was pretty fired up about that."
Wacha also helped set up a three-run second with a sacrifice bunt that pushed Pete Kozma to third in front of consecutive doubles from Matt Carpenter and Jon Jay.
Jay scored on Morton's final offering, a wild pitch that bounced just in front of the left-handed batter's box.
The Cardinals jumped in front with two runs in the first. Carpenter and Jay singled to start the inning and Matt Holliday walked to load the bases. Carlos Beltran hit a sacrifice fly and Yadier Molina had an RBI grounder.
"We all knew what was at stake," Carpenter said. "This is the last time we get to play these guys, so it was a big series. I couldn't be happier with the way it played out. Not just the fact that we won all three, but the fashion that we won all three. Really dominated, I feel like, every aspect of the game."
Pittsburgh scored twice in the ninth off reliever Sam Freeman. Garrett Jones hit an RBI double and Gaby Sanchez had a sacrifice fly.
Jones said Wacha had the Pirates guessing all day.
"He has deception," he said. "That downward angle can be tricky. He was able to hit his spots and he has a good arm."
NOTES: Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen singled in the seventh to extend his hit streak to seven games. ... Carpenter's single in the first was his 99th hit at home this season, a single-season record for the current Busch Stadium. ... Pittsburgh 3B Pedro Alvarez committed his major league-leading 27th error in the seventh, allowing pinch-hitter Brock Peterson to reach. ... The Cardinals are off Monday, but many will participate in Matheny's charity golf tournament. His Catch 22 Foundation supports charities that work with children with disabilities.
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Adam Wainwright bounced back from back-to-back sub-par outings with seven shutout innings and David Freese homered to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night.
The victory moved the Cardinals into first place, a half-game ahead of the Pirates in the NL Central with their third win in four games. Pittsburgh has lost four of six including the first two of the three-game set. The Pirates remain stuck on 81 wins, one shy of assuring them a winning record for the first time since they went 96-66 in 1992.
Wainwright (16-9) had given up 15 earned runs over his previous two starts, both against Cincinnati. He allowed a career-high nine runs in two innings of a 10-0 loss Aug. 28. But he regained his form against the Pirates allowing just two hits. He struck out eight and walked two.
Wainwright, who ended his performance with four successive strikeouts, is tied with Jordan Zimmermann of Washington and Jorge De La Rosa of Colorado for the most wins in the NL.
Freese drove in two runs for the Cardinals, who moved into sole possession of first place for the first time since Aug. 29. Matt Holliday, Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso also added RBIs.
Freese homered off reliever Jeanmar Gomez in the sixth to push the lead to 4-0.
Pittsburgh left-hander Jeff Locke (9-5) allowed three runs on three hits over five innings. He was making his first start since Aug. 27. Locke was sent down to Double-A Altoona to clear his mind, but he did not make an appearance.
Yadier Molina started a two-run outburst in the fourth inning with a double that followed a leadoff walk to Carlos Beltran. Freese then brought in Beltran with a sacrifice fly to left. Kozma added an infield single to bring in Molina.
Notes: RHP Michael Wacha (2-0, 3.20) will face Charlie Morton (7-3, 3.00) in the final game of the three-game series on Sunday. ... Pittsburgh has hit an NL-leading 79 home runs on the road. ... The Pirates have out-homered St. Louis 19-5 in the 18 games between the teams this season. ... St. Louis had nine successive hits in a seven-run seventh inning during Friday's 12-8 win. The nine in a row is the most by any team in the majors this season.
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Todd Frazier hit two homers, including the first of Cincinnati's three off Lance Lynn, and the Reds recovered from a 16-inning loss by overpowering the St. Louis Cardinals 6-2 on Thursday night, taking three of four in their final series of the season.
Jay Bruce and Shin-Soo Choo also hit solo homers off Lynn (13-10), who lasted five innings and gave up three homers for only the second time in his career. Frazier also connected off Seth Maness for the third multihomer game of his career.
By winning their final series together, the Reds tightened the NL Central race and ended the Cardinals' dominance. St. Louis had won the last seven series between them. Cincinnati's lone loss was 5-4 in 16 innings on Wednesday night.
Left-hander Tony Cingrani (7-3) returned from a sore back and did a little bit of everything. He pitched into the sixth inning, gave up two runs, bunted for a hit, stole a base and scored.
David Freese homered for the Cardinals, who have lost six of eight. With first-place Pittsburgh idle, the Cardinals slipped to 1 1/2 games behind the Pirates while the Reds moved to 3 games out.
The Cardinals got some encouraging news before the game. Cleanup hitter Allen Craig has a sprained left foot, but nothing is broken.
Allen twisted the foot while rounding first base on Wednesday night. Initially, the Cardinals feared it was broken - X-rays were inconclusive. He flew to St. Louis for an MRI and more X-rays that ruled out a fracture. He's expected back at some point during the season.
Cingrani had to leave his start on Aug. 20 because of a strained lower back. He returned on Thursday and showed there was nothing wrong.
Cingrani beat out a bunt for a single in the second inning. He stole second base off catcher Tony Cruz - the first steal by a Reds pitcher since Bronson Arroyo in 2008 - and came around on a wild pitch and Brandon Phillips' infield single.
Phillips was taken out hard at second base while completing a double play in the sixth. He left an inning later as a precaution with a sore left thigh.
Lynn had already beaten the Reds three times this season, but is going through a rough time lately. The right-hander has lost his last four starts, giving up 19 runs in 23 innings.
The only other time in his career that he allowed three homers in a game was June 14, 2012, at Kansas City.
The four homers overall equaled the most given up by the Cardinals this season. Pittsburgh hit four on April 28.
Notes: Cruz was in the lineup after recovering from a stress fracture in his left forearm that landed him on the DL on Aug. 15. ... Reds manager Dusty Baker said C Devin Mesoraco has a sore hamstring, limiting his availability. That's why No. 3 catcher Corky Miller got in before Mesoraco during the 16-inning loss. ... Reds SS Zack Cozart extended his hitting streak to 10 games. ... The Cardinals headed home for their final series against Pittsburgh. Joe Kelly (7-3) starts on Friday against A.J. Burnett (7-9). The Reds remain home, opening a series against the Dodgers. Mike Leake (11-6) faces LHP Chris Capuano (4-7).
The Cardinals will be without their RBI leader for the next few games.
Allen Craig was diagnosed with a left foot sprain Thursday. Craig injured his foot while attempting to avoid the umpire near first base in Wednesday night's win. Craig will wear a walking boot as a precaution and be re-evaluated by doctors next week.
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Matt Adams' second homer sent St. Louis to a 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in 16 innings on Wednesday night, protecting the Cardinals' hold on second place in the NL Central.
Adams broke an 0-for-17 slump by connecting in the 14th. After St. Louis let that lead get away, he homered again off Logan Ondrusek (3-1), ending the Reds' longest game of the season.
The Cardinals had dropped the first two games in the series, letting the Reds get within a game and a half for second place. They finish their season series on Thursday. St. Louis leads it 11-8.
Carlos Martinez (2-1) escaped a threat in the 15th, when Shin-Soo Choo reached third with two outs but was caught in a rundown.
The Cardinals have dropped five of seven overall, costing them precious ground in the division's three-team race. The Pirates, Cardinals and Reds are all in good shape to make the playoffs - one as a champion, the other two as wild cards.
St. Louis wasted a chance to put it away in the 14th inning.
Adams broke his deep slump by leading off with homer off Alfredo Simon. Speedy Billy Hamilton helped the Reds tie it with another stolen base in the bottom of the inning.
Hamilton ran for Ryan Ludwick after his single off Edward Mujica, who blew a save chance for only the third time in 38 chances. Hamilton stole second - he's 2 for 2 against catcher Yadier Molina - and scored easily on Zack Cozart's single.
Leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter had three hits and a walk, scoring twice. Carpenter has five of the Cardinals' 14 hits in the last two games.
Bronson Arroyo broke with his history of subpar showings against the Cardinals. It was his 38th career start against St. Louis - more than against any other team - and he didn't have a lot to show for it, going 0-3 against the Cardinals this season and 8-16 in his career.
He went seven innings and allowed three runs - two earned - giving the Reds chances that they squandered.
St. Louis scored twice in the fourth, when Matt Holliday hit a sacrifice fly and Carlos Beltran came around on a throwing error by first baseman Joey Votto on Allen Craig's grounder.
Craig sprained his left foot while rounding the base on the play and left the game. He'll be examined again on Thursday.
Brandon Phillips led off the fifth with his 18th homer, giving him 100 RBIs. He's the first Reds second baseman to reach the mark since Hall of Famer Joe Morgan drove in 111 in 1976, when the Reds swept the Yankees for their second straight World Series championship.
Notes: RH Jake Westbrook felt good a day after he threw in the bullpen. Westbrook has been sidelined since Aug. 22 with a strained lower back. He's eligible to come off the DL on Friday. Manager Mike Matheny isn't sure whether he'll use him as a starter - as Westbrook prefers - or out of the bullpen when he returns. ... Carpenter leads the NL with 169 hits and 15 three-hit games. ... Arroyo tied a Reds record with three sacrifice bunts. ... LH Tony Cingrani (6-3) starts the final game of the series for Cincinnati. He went on the DL after leaving a game Aug. 20 with a strained lower back. RH Lance Lynn (13-9) starts for St. Louis. He's 3-0 in four starts against the Reds this season.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The NCAA has granted guard Michael Dixon's waiver to play this season at Memphis after transferring from Missouri.
Athletics director Tom Bowen announced Wednesday that the NCAA notified Memphis of its decision.
The senior enrolled at Memphis in June. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound guard from Kansas City, Mo., announced last November he would transfer after two sexual assault claims became public, though he was not charged in either case. He already had been benched for unspecified team rule violations.
Dixon played in 101 games at Missouri with 25 starts over three seasons. As a junior, the Big 12's sixth man of the year averaged 13.5 points and 3.5 assists in helping Missouri go 30-5 and earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Even with their recent slump, the St. Louis Cardinals still lead the National League in scoring runs - by a wide margin, too.
That slump can't last very long, can it?
Homer Bailey pitched the first seven innings of a two-hitter, and Billy Hamilton got his first steal in the majors and scored on Todd Frazier's double in the seventh inning Tuesday night, sending the Cincinnati Reds to a 1-0 victory.
St. Louis was blanked for the third time in the last six games. All three shutouts have come against NL Central rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, part of a three-team race for the playoffs.
"We've got an offense that's played a lot of games this year and done extremely well," manager Mike Matheny said. "You can't start trying to reinvent the wheel. It was just a tough night."
It turned on Hamilton's blink-of-an-eye debut, one that the Cardinals had awaited.
Hamilton set a professional record by swiping 155 bases in the minors last year. He got an ovation when he made his big league debut as a pinch runner for Ryan Ludwick, who led off the seventh with a single against Seth Maness (5-2).
The 20,219 fans in the stands and everyone on the field and in the dugouts knew what was coming. Hamilton was about to test one of the toughest catchers in the game. Could he outrun catcher Yadier Molina's throw?
After Maness threw to first three times, Hamilton took off and beat an off-target throw from Molina, who rushed a bit.
"He was just another baserunner," Maness said. "We know he's fast, but you treat him no different. Get the ball to the plate quick and make the throw.
"It was a bang-bang play. That's baseball."
Hamilton scored easily on Frazier's hit and got congratulatory slaps in the dugout.
Bailey (10-10) allowed two hits and retired his last 14 batters. Aroldis Chapman threw four pitches that registered 103 mph while fanning the heart of the Cardinals' order in the ninth for his 34th save in 39 chances.
By taking the first two in the four-game series, the Reds snapped the Cardinals' streak of winning seven straight series between the NL Central rivals. St. Louis is 10-7 against Cincinnati this season.
The head-to-head opportunities are dwindling. Second-place St. Louis is a game and a half ahead of Cincinnati. The Cardinals host the division-leading Pirates for three games next weekend, completing their season series. The Reds play Pittsburgh six times in their last nine games.
The trio has been in a tight pack atop the division most of the season. Currently, all three are in position to make the playoffs.
Hamilton's steal and Frazier's hit decided a game full of tough pitching and impressive defense.
Michael Wacha, the Cardinals' top draft pick last year out of Texas A&M, made his fifth career start and blanked the Reds on three hits through six innings.
"He was very impressive," Matheny said. "When you put guys in that kind of situation, you never know how they're going to react. He stepped up."
The Cardinals' lineup was back to full strength. Carlos Beltran was back in right field after missing two games with a sore back. Molina was back in the lineup after leaving Monday's game with a sore left wrist.
Bailey is in a good stretch, winning his last five decisions. He held the Cardinals to five hits over 7 1-3 innings during a 10-0 win in St. Louis last Wednesday.
Bailey escaped an early threat. Matt Carpenter opened the game with a single, and Bailey walked Beltran on four pitches, bringing up Matt Holliday. The left fielder has a .375 career average against Bailey, but struck out swinging. Allen Craig grounded into a double play.
Defense had a lot to do with keeping this one close. No surprise there - St. Louis has the fewest errors in the NL, Cincinnati the third-fewest.
NOTES: The Cardinals called up RHP Carlos Martinez, LHP Tyler Lyons, INF Ryan Jackson, INF Brock Peterson and C Audry Perez. ... Reds manager Dusty Baker said LHP Tony Cingrani will start the final game of the series on Thursday. RHP Greg Reynolds replaced Cingrani when he went on the DL with a sore back and was on turn to start. Baker said Reynolds will be ready if Cingrani has problems. ... Reds RHP Bronson Arroyo (13-10) starts Wednesday's game against RHP Shelby Miller (12-9). Arroyo is 0-3 in four starts against the Cardinals this season and 8-16 for his career.
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto homered as Cincinnati roughed up Adam Wainwright for the second start in a row Monday, leading Mat Latos and the Reds to a 7-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a four-game series between the NL Central rivals.
Latos (14-5) gave up four hits, including a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly by Matt Holliday, in his first complete game of the season and the fourth of his career.
The third-place Reds are trying to break the Cardinals' season-long dominance. St. Louis has won the last seven series between the teams. The Cardinals are 10-6 against Cincinnati this year.
The Cardinals took two of three in St. Louis last week, the only loss coming when the Reds tagged Wainwright (15-9) for nine runs in a career-low two innings. They had his number again on Monday, piling up six runs and 10 hits in six innings.
It's an important series for Cincinnati, which now trails the Cardinals by 2 1/2 games. St. Louis opened the day tied with Pittsburgh for first place. The Reds maintain a comfortable lead for the final NL wild-card spot.
The last time the Cardinals visited Great American Ball park, they won by scores of 13-3 and 15-2 during a one-sided series that left the Reds embarrassed. This one started much better for them.
Wainwright fell to 5-9 career against Cincinnati. In his last two starts against the Reds, the right-hander has given up 18 hits and 15 runs in only eight innings. He's 1-3 in four starts against Cincinnati this season with a 7.77 ERA.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina came out of the game in the fifth inning because of a sore left wrist. He was activated off the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 15 after missing 14 games with a sore right knee.
The Reds quickly got to Wainwright. Choo opened the first with a single and scored on Ryan Ludwick's two-out single. Ludwick missed more than three months with torn cartilage in his right shoulder, but the left fielder is starting to get his swing back in shape. Ludwick has driven in a run in each of his last four games.
Zack Cozart singled home a run in the second, and Choo's two-run homer made it 4-0. Choo leads all major league leadoff hitters with 19 homers. He has three homers during a six-game hitting streak, which includes four multihit games.
Votto hit an up-and-away 1-2 pitch to the opposite field in left for his 21st homer in the fourth inning.
NOTES: Cardinals RF Carlos Beltran's back was still sore on Monday, prompting manager Mike Matheny to keep him out of the starting lineup for a second straight day as a precaution. "Instead of trying to push him through, we've tried to pay attention to how he feels," Matheny said. "That should pay dividends in the long run." ... St. Louis 1B Matt Adams extended his slump to 0 for 14. ... The Reds called up OF Billy Hamilton and INF Neftali Soto and activated C Corky Miller off the 15-day DL before the game. ... Homer Bailey (9-10) tries to extend his winning streak - 4-0 in his last six starts - against the Cardinals' Michael Wacha (2-0), who makes his fifth career start.