Adam Wainwright got back on track by firing seven scoreless innings, with the gem sending the St. Louis Cardinals back into first place in the NL Central via a 5-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium.
Battered for 15 runs over eight innings during consecutive losses to Cincinnati in his last two starts, Wainwright (16-9) reclaimed his All-Star form to move the Cardinals a half-game ahead of the Pirates in the standings and join Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa and Washington's Jordan Zimmermann for the NL lead in wins. The ace righty yielded just two hits and a pair of walks, struck out eight, and set down the final 11 men he faced.
"We know the standing and we know where things are," said St. Louis manager Mike Matheny. "I tell the guys to not pay attention to those things and just take care of our own business."
David Freese supplied the offense for the Cardinals with a solo homer and two RBI, while Yadier Molina doubled twice and scored a pair of runs.
Andrew McCutchen had two of Pittsburgh's three hits as the Pirates were handed a third straight loss that includes a 12-8 setback in Friday's opener of this key three-game set.
"It's just a sense of not panicking," said McCutchen. "We know there's a lot of ball left to play and we just have to push through it."
Jeff Locke (9-5), making his first start since Aug. 27, worked five innings for the Pirates and permitted three runs -- two earned -- while walking four.
Unlike his two recent outings against the Reds, Wainwright was in control all throughout. His only danger came when McCutchen opened the fourth with a double and Justin Morneau drew a walk, but prevented damage by inducing a double-play grounder from Marlon Byrd prior to striking out Pedro Alvarez.
Wainwright proceeded to retire all nine batters through the next three innings. capping his outstanding night by fanning the side in the seventh.
Locke, who was briefly sent to the minors following a string of poor starts in August, matched Wainwright through the first three innings before encountering some trouble in the fourth. He issued his fourth walk of the game, a leadoff free pass to Carlos Beltran, then served up a double to Molina that put two on with none out.
Freese brought home Beltran with a sacrifice fly to put St. Louis in front, and Pete Kozma plated Molina with an infield single two batters later that extended the lead to 2-0.
The Cardinals tacked on an unearned run in the fifth, aided by a throwing error by Pittsburgh shortstop Clint Barmes on a force attempt at second after Locke had hit Matt Carpenter with a pitch. The miscue resulted in a second and third situation, with Carpenter later scoring on a Matt Holliday groundout.
Jeamar Gomez relieved Locke to begin the bottom of the sixth and was greeted by Freese's eighth homer of the season, a blast that easily cleared the wall in straightaway center.
Molina scored St. Louis' final run, lacing a leadoff double off Jason Grilli to start the bottom of the eighth and crossing the plate on Daniel Descalso's pinch-hit, two-out single.
McCutchen improved to 12-of-28 (.429) lifetime against Wainwright with his two hits ... Locke is now winless (0-3) in eight starts since besting Cincinnati on July 21 ... Morneau struck out three times in four plate appearances ... The Cardinals ended 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.