Cards turn to Wacha in matchup with Mariners

Youth betrayed the Seattle Mariners in the opener of their three-game set with the St. Louis Cardinals.

On the other hand, the Cards hope their young arm can keep them in first place in the NL Central as Michael Wacha faces the Mariners on Saturday night.

The 22-year-old Wacha had made consecutive scoreless starts for the St. Louis since pitching out of the bullpen for most of August. Overall, the rookie is 3-0 with a 2.72 earned run average in 12 games this season, including six starts.

Wacha is coming off a win over Pittsburgh on Sunday as he hurled seven innings of two-hit ball. The righty fanned a pair in the 9-2 decision and added a two- run single.

The 19th overall pick of the 2012 draft has made only one other start against an AL opponent and that came in his Major League debut on May 30 versus Kansas City. Wacha did not get a decision, but pitched well, allowing a run on two hits without a walk in seven innings.

Already loaded with rookies in the lineup, Seattle sends out 24-year-old James Paxton for his second career start tonight.

Paxton made his debut on Saturday versus Tampa Bay and won a 6-2 decision, charged with both runs -- one earned -- on four hits and a walk in six innings.

"I was just trying to keep the ball down and try to pound the strike zone ... I feel like I had small misses, which was good," said Paxton, who added he was amped up early on in the start.

However, it was still a bittersweet day for the 24-year-old, who said he learned earlier on Saturday that his grandfather had passed away.

"That wasn't easy. Very close family and he was kind of the glue," said the British Columbia native. "It was great my family was able to make it down here tonight and watch me pitch and I know he was up there watching me also."

The Mariners outhit the Cardinals 10-4 in Friday's opener, but some costly miscues led to a 2-1 setback in 10 innings.

Seattle rookie catcher Mike Zunino hit a home run to lead off the fifth inning, but was charged with a passed ball in the 10th frame that allowed Pete Kozma to race home for the walk-off victory for the Cards.

That came after the Cardinals had tied the game in the eighth on another unearned run. Rookie Nick Franklin lost track of a pop up that fell to the ground, allowing St. Louis' Brock Peterson to reach second. Kozma came on to pinch run and stole third, then scored when rookie shortstop Brad Miller bounced a throw to first on a potential double play ball.

"That was an inning where we made something out of nothing," said St. Louis manager Mike Matheny. "Pete has real good instincts when he's on the base and he won this game for us."

St. Louis moved a game ahead of Pittsburgh for first place in the NL Central and has won six of seven so far on its nine-game homestand, while the Mariners lost their fifth straight.

Seattle also dropped its club-record 13th extra-inning game of the season.

"We've got a lot of young players up here," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "When you're playing tight ballgames like a lot of our games have been and you're tight late, that's when it really shows itself."

The Cardinals are 7-3 all-time versus the Mariners, winning six of seven in St. Louis.