Rookie Michael Wacha making just his ninth career start and 15th major-league appearance came within an inch or so of a no-hitter on Tuesday losing it on an infield single with two out in the ninth.

Ryan Zimmerman hit a bouncer back to the box that Wacha leaped for and appeared to just get his glove on. A charging Pete Kozma barehanded the ball and threw to first but his throw was a fraction late and pulled first baseman Matt Adams off the bag with his swipe tag on Zimmerman just late.

Manager Mike Matheny took Wacha out after that and Trevor Rosenthal came in to get the final out for his second save in two nights as the Cardinals won 2-0 and reduced their magic number to three to win the NL Central.

Prior to the hit Wacha allowed just three baserunners on an error by Matt Carpenter in the fifth and walks in the seventh and eight. Shane Robinson had preserved the no-hitter with a nice running catch on Anthony Rendon to end the eighth.

Wacha struck out nine.

The last Cardinal to throw a no-hitter was Bud Smith on Sept. 3 2001. Earlier this season Shelby Miller allowed a leadoff single and then retired 27 straight batters earlier this season.

Wacha made quick work of the Nationals. He had a six-pitch sixth inning and through eight innings has thrown 99 pitches. Wacha retired the first 14 batters before Adam LaRoche hit a hard grounder that went right between the legs of second baseman Matt Carpenter for an undeniable error. Nationals centerfielder Denard Span tried to bunt for a base hit in the sixth. It went foul but he drew a lot of boos from the Busch fans.

Wacha walked Ryan Zimmerman on a 3-2 pitch to lead off the seventh taking Carpenter off the hook for the perfect-game spoiling error. Wacha walked LaRoche to start the eighth but after a meeting with Yadier Molina got Anthony Rendon to ground into a double play.

He will face a pinch hitter for the pitcher and then the top of the order in the ninth.

Wacha had a very efficient first four innings needing just 45 pitches before Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche had an extended at-bat that ended with a hard hit grounder that went right through the legs of second baseman Matt Carpenter and was scored an error. And in case it comes down to this it was clearly an error. Wacha got through the first five innings on 64 pitches only 14 of them balls.

The Cardinals got their first run as they often do with two outs. After Gio Gonzalez struck out the first two batters in the third Carpenter doubled to center his 55th double of the season and then scored on a single to center by Shane Robinson. Carpenter came into the game with 13 more doubles than his closest competitor and 19 more runs.

The Cardinals added a run in the fourth on a leadoff single by Matt Adams. Then with Adams running on the pitch Yadier Molina doubled to center field and Adams came around to score. Molina went to third on an infield out but was thrown out at the plate on Jon Jay's grounder to second with the infield in.