ST. LOUIS — Michael Wacha is glad he’s graduated to a pennant race.
After finishing his college career at Texas A&M just over a year ago, the rookie pitched seven shutout innings and drove in two runs as the St. Louis Cardinals routed the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-2 Sunday for a three-game sweep.
The Cardinals outscored Pittsburgh 26-10 overall in taking the NL Central lead.
“It helped me going to A&M and playing in those big-time games and I guess gets me prepared for it,” Wacha said. “So I just try not to think too much. I go out there and try to go out there and just trust myself. It ended up working out pretty well.”
The Pirates arrived at Busch Stadium this weekend with a 11⁄2-game division lead and a chance to cement their first winning season since 1992. They left trailing the Cardinals by 11⁄2 games and still stuck on 81 victories.
This was the last time this season Pittsburgh and St. Louis were scheduled to play.
Wacha (3-0) allowed two hits and walked two, both of which were erased on double plays. He struck out two and never had more than one runner on at a time.
Wacha hasn’t allowed a run in 19 2-3 consecutive innings.
“A young pitcher coming in and just staying within himself, really establishing the strike zone early,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “It seemed like he made some really good pitches as he got deeper into the game. He’s just making pitches all day. It’s impressive.”
Yankees 4, Red Sox 3: NEW YORK — Ichiro Suzuki scored on Brandon Workman’s wild pitch with two outs in the ninth inning, and the New York Yankees overcame Mariano Rivera’s blown save to avoid a four-game sweep by Boston.
The AL East-leading Red Sox had won five in a row.
Rivera (5-2) came in to start the eighth for the first time since 2006. Will Middl⁄ebrooks’ leadoff homer in the ninth gave Rivera his seventh blown save in 48 chances.
Suzuki hit a one-out single off Workman (5-3) in the bottom half, stole second and advanced to third on Vernon Wells’ fly to right.
Workman then threw a high pitch that deflected off the mitt of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and caromed away off the backstop, allowing Suzuki to score easily.
Royals 5, Tigers 2: KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bruce Chen picked up Kansas City’s beleaguered starters with seven solid innings and the Royals defeated Detroit.
Chen (7-2), who moved into the rotation on July 12 after 19 relief appearances, limited the AL Central-leading Tigers to five hits and two runs over seven innings, earning the first victory for a starter on the Royals’ seven-game homestand.
Eric Hosmer hit a three-run homer off Doug Fister (12-8).
Athletics 7, Astros 2: OAKLAND, Calif. — Bartolo Colon won for the first time in more than a month, Seth Smith homered during a seven-run third inning and the Oakland Athletics beat Houston.
Brandon Moss had three hits and drove in two runs while Yoenis Cespedes added two hits and an RBI for the AL West-leading A’s.
Colon (15-6) allowed one run and five hits in six innings for his first victory since July 26. The 40-year-old struck out seven and walked one, ending his five-game winless streak.
Lucas Harrell (6-16) pitched when scheduled starter Paul Clemens was scratched about an hour before the game because of a blister on his right hand.
Rangers 4, Angels 3: ANAHEIM, Calif. — Alex Rios homered in the first inning and drove in the go-ahead run with a bloop double in the seventh, Elvis Andrus also had two RBIs, and the Texas Rangers beat the Los Angeles Angels.
The Rangers remained 11⁄2 games behind AL West-leading Oakland.
Alexi Ogando (6-4) won with 1 1-3 scoreless innings of one-hit relief. Joe Nathan, the seventh Texas pitcher, got three outs for his 39th save in 41 tries.
Michael Kohn (1-2) got the loss.