Cards hope to ride Shelby to victory, deny Zimmermann 20th win

At least the St. Louis Cardinals' fielders will be well rested for Wednesday afternoon's finale with the Washington Nationals.

Shelby Miller tries to follow up Michael Wacha's near no-hitter with a victory of his own in the final contest of a three-game set, one that would push the Cards even closer to their first NL Central title since 2009.

With the focus on trying to lock up the division crown, Wacha took center stage in Tuesday's 2-0 victory. The 6-foot-6 rookie threw 8 2/3 innings of no- hit ball before Washington's Ryan Zimmerman hit a chopper over the pitcher's mound.

Wacha tipped the ball and a hard-charging Pete Kozma raced in from short, but his bare-handed throw pulled Matt Adams off the first-base bag.

"It tipped off his glove and slowed it down," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "I don't think he was tagged at all ... I don't think it would've beat him anyway."

Trevor Rosenthal then came into the game to secure the final out and pick up his second save of the campaign.

While history eluded Wacha, the Cardinals did maintain a two-game edge over the Pittsburgh Pirates for first place in the NL Central. They also moved three games up on Cincinnati in the division and have a magic number of three to clinch the NL Central crown.

"This last week of baseball, every win is crucial," Wacha said. "So that's the mindset coming into this game -- let's win this game and stay in first place."

Making his ninth career start, Wacha became the third pitcher this season to have a no-hit bid broken up with one out to go, joining the Texas Rangers' Yu Darvish and the San Francisco Giants' Yusmeiro Petit

Wacha was attempting to become the 11th St. Louis pitcher and first since Bud Smith in 2001 to spin the trick. Smith fired a no-no in his 11th career start.

"For a kid to do that against a lineup like this during this time of the season, hard to really get your head around it. Man, that was some kind of fun to watch," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

Miller draws the task of following Wacha and is undefeated this month, going 2-0 with a 3.09 earned run average in four starts. He picked up a no-decision versus Milwaukee on Friday after winning back-to-back starts, charged with four runs on seven hits and two walks.

Miller, a 22-year-old righty, is 14-9 with a 3.12 ERA in 30 starts this season and notched a win over Washington on April 22 in his first ever meeting with the club. He allowed two unearned runs over 6 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts.

The Nationals counter with Jordan Zimmermann, who is a perfect 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA in four outings this month but winless in his career versus the Cardinals. He is 0-2 with a 9.12 ERA in five lifetime encounters.

Zimmermann is looking to join Max Scherzer as the only 20-game winners in baseball this season. The righty is coming off a two-hit shutout of Miami on Friday, walking one while striking out nine. He threw 5 2/3 no-hit innings before logging his second career shutout and fifth complete game.

"This probably one of the better starts I've had. My bullpen session before the game wasn't that good. I thought this might be kind of a long one, but as soon as I stepped out there in the first inning I knew I had pretty good stuff," said Zimmermann.

The 27-year-old leads the NL in wins at 19-8 with a 3.18 ERA in 31 starts.

Gio Gonzalez won 21 games for the Nationals a season ago. He took the tough- luck loss on Tuesday night, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out six over seven innings.

The Cardinals swept a three-game set in Washington in April and have won six straight in the series. They last swept a three-game set at home from the Nats on Aug. 28-30, 2009.