Wainwright moves Cards into first in NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in St. Louis.

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in St. Louis. Photo by The Associated Press.

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.

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