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NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Wacha busted it out of the batter's box on a hot night and was thinking about an RBI as he raced down toward first base trying to beat out a double play during a big second inning.
Not only did he do that, he also threw a three-hitter for his first career shutout, helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the New York Mets 5-0 on Tuesday night.
"Yeah, I am not fast by any means, but I was just trying to get down there and beat it out," said Wacha (7-3), who previously pitched 11 days ago.
Despite a slow start that has them one game under .500, the Cardinals were able to move within 3 1/2 games behind the National League Central Division-leading Milwaukee Brewers thanks to Wacha, who won his fourth consecutive start, and Matt Carpenter, who had four hits.
"Oh, it was awesome. He came out from the first pitch and you could tell he had good stuff," said Carpenter, who picked up his 10th-career four-hit game and first since May 31, 2016, at Milwaukee.
Wacha struck out eight and walked one in his 99th start, allowing only three runners to reach second base.
The 26-year-old right-hander, who was ineffective last season, had not won four straight starts since the 2013 playoffs when he helped lead St. Louis to the World Series.
There were rumors off a possible move to the bullpen for Wacha prior to this season, but St. Louis manager Mike Matheny always thought otherwise.
"You can't forget, it was '13 and this kid came on the scene and then pitched on the big stage and threw some of the better games that we had seen," Matheny said. "And that stuff, when he's healthy, that stuff is right. You know days like this I know reaffirm for him the kind of pitcher that he should be. We see it. Just want to continue to watch it."
Wacha and the Cardinals capitalized on a shoddy Mets defense that let down starter Rafael Montero (1-6) with three errors. Montero allowed four runs, two earned, in six innings. New York has lost three straight and eight of 11.
"We've talked about it. In this league you can't give away outs," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Big league teams, you can't give them extra outs. They capitalized on them, and with Wacha pitching like he did tonight, a pretty dominant performance, you let him have some extra runs, they're going to beat you."
The first of Carpenter's four hits was a first-inning double into the right field corner. He advanced to third on third baseman T.J. Rivera's throwing error and scored on Jedd Gyorko's sacrifice fly.
The Cardinals took advantage of two more miscues during a three-run second inning. Wacha grounded into what could have been a double play, but shortstop Jose Reyes had trouble getting the ball to first. Carpenter doubled over left fielder Yoenis Cespedes' head to make it 2-0. St. Louis added another run when Rivera couldn't field Tommy Pham's grounder, allowing Wacha to score
"He was locating the fastball well, throwing 93 to 97, 98 and his breaking ball was good," said Mets catcher Rene Rivera. "He got one of the best catchers in baseball behind the plate with Yadi (Molina) mixing up pitches."
COMEDY OF ERRORS
The Mets' three errors tied a season high. Rivera's first of two errors came in the first inning when his throw pulled Lucas Duda off the bag at first, allowing Carpenter to advance to third and later score on a sacrifice fly. With runners on the corners and one out in the seventh, Duda was charged with an error after he failed to catch Molina's pop up in foul territory. Molina then singled to center to drive in a run.
Sitting in the third row near the Mets dugout, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie caught a foul ball in the top of the third inning. The embattled politician, who posed for pictures with fans throughout the game, was booed after fans realized he was the one who'd snared the ball with his bare left hand. He gave the souvenir to a kid seated a few rows behind him.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
Each of Carpenter's first three hits came on the first pitch. He didn't have too much luck when he singled to right field on the second pitch in his fifth and final at-bat in the eighth inning. "The third at-bat it was mainly the guys in the dugout (saying), 'You won't do that again'," Carpenter recalled. "So I did it and then had to go back to being myself after that. Had to wait. Out of my comfort zone."
Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom (10-3, 3.48) starts Wednesday night against Cardinals RHP Mike Leake (7-6, 3.14 ERA). DeGrom has won a career-best six straight starts with a 1.53 ERA dating to June 12. He's struck out 47 and walked nine during that stretch.
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