St. Louis beat Washington Nationals 2-0 to close in on NL Central title


AP

ST. LOUIS — Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha lost his no-hit bid on Ryan Zimmerman’s infield single with two outs in the ninth inning, and St. Louis beat the Washington Nationals 2-0 Tuesday night to close in on the NL Central title.

Making his ninth career start, Wacha came about as close as possible to finishing off the third no-hitter in the majors this season. Instead, he became the third pitcher to have a bid broken up with one out to go.

Zimmerman hit a chopper just over Wacha’s glove — the pitcher said he thought it nicked his mitt — and the ball bounced slowly toward shortstop. A charging Pete Kozma grabbed it with his bare hand and whipped a throw to first that was a little wide, pulling Matt Adams off the bag just as Zimmerman arrived.

The crowd at Busch Stadium let out a loud, collective groan. Third baseman David Freese sat crouched in the infield, stunned at how close his 22-year-old teammate had come.

Wacha (4-1) was pulled after Zimmerman’s hit and walked off to a huge ovation. Trevor Rosenthal got Jayson Werth to ground out for his second save.

Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez (11-8) pitched seven effective innings, allowing two runs and six hits.

Pirates 8, Cubs 2 Gerrit Cole threw six strong innings, helping Pittsburgh take over the NL wild-card lead.

The Pirates moved one game ahead of Cincinnati, which lost 4-2 to the Mets. Pittsburgh remained two games behind NL Central-leading St. Louis.

One night after clinching their first postseason spot in 21 years, Cole and the Pirates showed few signs of a letdown. Cole hit a two-run single, Pedro Alvarez drove in three runs and Jordy Mercer homered.

Cole (10-7) won his fourth straight start, giving up two runs and seven hits.

Cole’s single came during a three-run second inning against Chris Rusin (2-6).

Mets 4, Reds 2 Daniel Murphy hit a three-run homer off Mike Leake, whose long streak of scoreless innings got shattered early, and the Mets dealt the Reds a costly setback to their hopes of a second straight NL Central title.

The Reds and Pirates clinched playoff spots on Monday night, but hope to chase down first-place St. Louis with closing surges. Leake’s one very bad inning made that much less likely for Cincinnati.