WASHINGTON • Two outs shy of his second shutout in three starts, Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright handed his carefully and dominantly crafted start to the bullpen for safe keeping.
What he started, he would not be finishing.
Edward Mujica did.
With Bryce Harper on second base with his leadoff double and the tying run at the plate, Mujica made good on Wainwright's exception 8 1/3 innings of work. The new Cardinals closer needed only two pitches to get the final two outs of a 2-0 victory Tuesday against Washington at Nationals Park.
Wainwright (4-1) allowed five hits and struck out nine.
Four of those strikeouts were Nats cleanup hitter Adam LaRoche. Wainwright got him with a curveball for the first out of the ninth inning. The curve was Wainwright's 113th and final pitch of the night before manager Mike Matheny went to the bullpen.
The Cardinals' victory means they have won their first series on this road trip, having split the other two.
Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran provided the runs during a two-run rally in the fourth inning against Nats lefty Ross Detwiler.
The Nationals first threatened to scar Wainwright’s gem when Harper forced what no other hitter had this season. In the first inning, Wainwright zoomed past Pea Ridge Day’s mark of 29 2/3 innings without a walk to open a season, and by the end of the fifth inning Wainwright was six innings shy of tying the club record of 40 consecutive innings without a walk to start a season. Wainwright had faced 133 batters this season and not thrown one four balls.
The 134th was Harper.
The second-year outfielder had a home run against Wainwright in the playoff game and he singled in his first at-bat Tuesday. After his strikeout in the fourth, Harper stood at four-for-seven against Wainwright in their careers. Wainwright walked him. Hits by Kurt Suzuki and Denard Span had put the inning in motion for Washington, so the Harper walk loaded the bases with two outs. The tying run was at second with cleanup hitter Adam LaRoche at the plate.
Wainwright got ahead 0-2 before LaRoche worked the count back even. LaRoche fouled off a fastball to keep the at-bat alive.
That’s when Wainwright went to his new toy.
The Cardinals’ coaches approached Wainwright this spring about adding another level to his fastball. The Cardinals believed if Wainwright had a fastball that he could throw up in the zone it would keep hitters off his curveball, the only other pitch that starts high in the zone before it drops. They wanted their righty to have something else at the same eye level. That something was the fastball. That something put away LaRoche with the game in the balance.
Wainwright fired a 94-mph, chest-level fastball that LaRoche swung under for Wainwright’s eighth strikeout. It left three runners stranded.
Wainwright cruising with one-hitter through five
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright has held the Washington Nationals to one hit through five scoreless innings.
At a ballpark that housed some of the most horrific starts of his career, Wainwright has been at his best. He has managed to retire phenom Bryce Harper for of the rare times in the young outfielders career. It's been that good of a night for the Cardinals righty.
Wainwright extended his streak to start the season without a walk to 34 innings. That surpassed Pea Ridge Day for the longest by a Cardinals pitcher since 1913. The club record is 40 innings.
In his 34 innings, Wainwright has struck out 34 batters.
Six of those have come tonight.
Wainwright, who had allowed 12 runs in his previous five innings pitched at Nats Park, struck out the side in the fourth inning. He got Jayson Werth looking at a curveball and then Harper chasing after a 93-mph fastball. Adam LaRoche took a 93-mph fastball for a called strike three to end the inning.
The Cardinals lead 2-0 thanks to RBIs from Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran.
Craig doubled home Shane Robinson in the fourth inning and Beltran scored Craig with a single. Both RBI hits were during a series of four consecutive hits against Washington lefty Ross Detwiler, a St. Louis-area native.
The Cardinals have hit into four double plays to halt their offense.
Adams takes grounders, still limited at the plate
Cardinals rookie Matt Adams was able to take grounders at first base and throw, but it may be a few days before they clear him to take swings.
Adams is dealing with a tightness in his right oblique.
It's a soreness that the Cardinals and Adams do not want to turn into an injury. Back in 2011, while slugging his way through the Texas League, Adams had an oblique strain that cost him three weeks. Adams felt the pain grip in his side on Monday while taking a light batting practice hours before the Cardinals took the field.
"The tightness is still there," Adams said before taking grounders. "It has improved from yesterday."
Manager Mike Matheny said he did not expect it to be a DL situation.
He agreed that it could be until the weekend series back at Busch Stadium that Adams returns to hitting.
"I'm following orders," Adams said. "I do what I'm told."
Robinson replaces Jay in CF tonight
The Cardinals may miss Jon Jay's glove in center field (see: sliding catch to end the seventh inning Monday night), but they finally were forced to do something about his spot in the batting order.
Jay, who went 0 for 4 Monday night and dipped below the Mendoza Line to .197, yields center field to righthanded-hitting Shane Robinson against Nationals lefthander Ross Detwiler at 6:05 tonight (FSM).
Allen Craig moved to No. 2 in the order Monday, and after a 2-for-4 game with two RBIs, he'll bat there again tonight.
1. Robinson, cf
2. Craig, 1b
3. Holliday, lf
4. Beltran, rf
5. Molina, c
6. Freese, 3b
7. Carpenter, 2b
8. Kozma SS
9. Wainwright, P
1. Span CF
2. Werth RF
3. Harper LF
4. LaRoche 1B
5. Desmond SS
6. Rendon 3B
7. Espinosa 2B
8. Suzuki C
9. Detwiler P
Check back here soon — Post-Dispatch baseball writer Derrick Goold will have more news and notes after pre-game interviews with Matheny and players.