Wainwright shuts down Astros to become NL's first 15-game winner

ST. LOUIS -- Adam Wainwright became the National League's first 15-game winner. He also took the team lead, at least for a few days.

Wainwright worked eight innings of three-hit ball and Albert Pujols' rare hit off Wandy Rodriguez drove in the lone run in the St. Louis Cardinals' 1-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

Wainwright (15-7) matched the Yankees' CC Sabathia for the major league victory lead, and moved ahead of Chris Carpenter (14-3) for staff honors.

"Golly, I've got to put my sprinting shoes on to stay ahead of him," Wainwright said. "That's good, I like the push. The whole rotation, we just keep going out there and feeding off each other."

Brendan Ryan sped home from first on Pujols' one-out double down the third-base line in the first inning for the NL Central leaders. The Cardinals (73-54) won with only three hits for the first time since July 6, 2005 at Arizona, and for the first time at home since Sept. 4, 2004, when they beat the Dodgers 5-1 on only two hits.

St. Louis is 14-3 since Aug. 7 and leads the division by a season-best nine games, while knocking the Astros a season-worst 11 games behind.

Wainwright retired 17 straight after Michael Bourn doubled to lead off the game, striking out five and walking none.

"When you're kind of rolling like that, you just let it happen," Wainwright said. "You don't think about what's going on, you just make a pitch."

Bourn was stranded at second when the next three Astros failed to get the ball out of the infield. The Cardinals totaled four outfield putouts during Wainwright's outing. The right-hander worked six or more innings for the 25th straight start, the most since Carpenter did it 28 straight times in 2005.

"Any count, every at-bat, he mixes the ball so well and he won't give in," Houston's Carlos Lee said. "Sometimes you get dominated and we got dominated today."

Before Tuesday, Pujols was 3 for 25 with no RBIs against Rodriguez, and the .120 average was his worst against a left-hander with a minimum of 15 at-bats. Rodriguez' success against Pujols was, in turn, his best against any batter he had faced at least 20 times.

"I tried to get him to hit a ground ball because he's a power hitter," Rodriguez said. "I threw the ball down and he hit the ball well."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa noted that Rodriguez has only struck out Pujols once.

"The numbers are there, but Albert puts the ball in play," La Russa said. "It does help to realize Rodriguez has become an outstanding pitcher."

The Cardinals are 27-3 since July 3 in games started by their top three starters -- Wainwright, Carpenter and Joel Pineiro (12-9). They are 10-2 against left-handed starters since the Matt Holliday trade on July 24.

Rodriguez (12-8) allowed a run and three hits in seven innings, righting himself after the first by retiring 15 straight hitters before Ryan Ludwick's single with one out in the seventh. He has allowed one run or fewer in nine of his last 10 starts, going 6-2 with a 2.05 ERA in that span

In five August starts totaling 35 2/3 innings, Wainwright has walked one with 22 strikeouts. His biggest out came on his 114th pitch, a strikeout of pinch-hitter Jason Michaels with a man on third to end the eighth.

Michaels hit a grand slam off Wainwright last year when he was with the Pirates, tying it 4-4 in the eighth inning.

"That was the worst I'd ever felt after a game," Wainwright said. "To see him come up in that situation, it was 'All right, here we go, I've got to make a pitch, I'm not going to do that again.'"

Ryan Franklin finished for his 33rd save in 35 chances, walking Lance Berkman on four pitches with two outs before Lee flied out to right.

Game notes
Carpenter will start on regular rest Thursday for the Cardinals, the spot of injured Kyle Lohse, with Brad Thompson, Mitchell Boggs and Blake Hawksworth in the mix to start Friday. ... Bourn has reached base in 18 straight games. ... Holliday is in a 4-for-26 slump. ... Lee is 1 for 20 against Wainwright after going hitless in three at-bats with a drive to the warning track in the seventh.