DENVER (AP) - Adam Wainwright pitched effectively into the eighth after a shaky start and helped himself at the plate with three hits as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Colorado Rockies 4-3 on Wednesday night to expand their lead in the NL Central race.
Wainwright (17-9) gave up two runs in the first and then found his groove to earn his 17th win, second-most in the NL this season.
He went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI to help the Cardinals stretch their lead to two games on Pittsburgh after the Pirates lost 3-2 loss to San Diego. St. Louis also reduced its magic number for clinching a playoff spot to three with 10 games to play.
Tyler Chatwood (7-5) allowed four runs in six innings before being lifted for a pinch hitter. Chatwood is rounding back into form after missing nearly a month with an inflamed right elbow.
The hard-throwing Wainwright allowed 10 hits and struck out eight before running into a jam with two on and two outs in the eighth. Reliever Trevor Rosenthal got Charlie Blackmon to ground out to end the threat. Edward Mujica pitched his way out of a bases loaded mess in ninth for his 37th save in 40 chances. He struck out Todd Helton, who's retiring at the end of the season, to quiet the cheering crowd and end the game.
St. Louis solve Chatwood in the third, stringing together four straight hits to tie the game at 2. Wainwright had an RBI double and Matt Carpenter followed with a run-scoring single. Carpenter now has 67 RBI from the leadoff spot, the most by a Cardinals player since Lou Brock had 76 in 1967.
The Cardinals took the lead for good in the fourth when Yadier Molina led off the inning with a double and was brought home by Wainwright's single.