The Cardinals played their first September/October home game with first place at stake to the winner since 2001 when Houston and the Cardinals were fighting for the division lead on the last weekend of the season here with both winding up in the playoffs.
If it was to be the Cardinals’ biggest game of the season to date Saturday night before a sold-out house of 45110 at Busch Stadium their top starting pitcher Adam Wainwright would have to be at his best after being at his admitted worst in his two previous outings. Wainwright stared this challenge in the eye.

Winning his 16th Wainwright blanked Pittsburgh on two hits for seven innings and the Cardinals moved back into first place in the National League Central Division for the first time this month with a 5-0 win over the Pirates who slipped one-half game behind the Cardinals. Hard-charging Cincinnati winner of five of its last six games stands third just 1½ games off the Cardinals’ pace.

David Freese his power stroke warming hit his second homer in his last three games a 425-foot blast to center and drove in another with a sacrifice fly. Yadier Molina who homered in his final at-bat on Friday after picking himself out of the dirt doubled twice and scored two runs. Trevor Rosenthal Seth Maness and Randy Choate finished off the Pirates after Wainwright had been pulled following his 100th pitch.

In his previous victory on Aug. 23 Wainwright had thrown a season-high 128 pitches in a complete-game win against Atlanta.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had said before the game that hitting coach John Mabry and several Cardinals pitchers notably injured ace Chris Carpenter had detected that Wainwright might have been “tipping” his pitches in the back-to-back drubbings by the Reds who scored 15 runs in eight innings against Wainwright.

The signature Wainwright breaking ball was in clear view unlike some recent games.

“You could see at times his breaking ball just didn’t have the bite” said Matheny. “It was sharp right from the second pitch he threw.”

But Wainwright also featured and located his fastball cutter and changeup. “He had it all today” said Matheny.

Wainwright was disturbed by his last two outings but not as disturbed apparently as some of the folks who posted messages he allowed himself to read one day on social media.

“Mild panic” was the tenor of the postings said Wainwright.

Wainwright said he ran harder lifted harder and studied film harder in the past five days. “Between the last start and this start I did everything imaginable to be ready for this day” he said.

That included firing up the computer.

“I looked at a few message boards” he said. “I wanted to see what fan reaction was what media reaction was. And then I didn’t open the computer to look at that stuff again. I just used it motivationally.