WASHINGTON (AP) Two on, two out, a run in and a chance for St. Louis to take control of its game against the Washington Nationals.
Starting pitcher Adam Wainwright couldn't wait to step to the plate.
Wainwright delivered a two-run double and pitched seven gritty innings Saturday night to help St. Louis secure a 9-4 victory.
Matt Holliday homered for the Cardinals, who took control with a four-run second inning highlighted by Wainwright's fifth extra-base hit of the season.
With runners at the corners in the second, Wainwright lined the first pitch from Gio Gonzalez (3-3) into the left-center gap for a 3-0 lead.
''Several times a year, a pitcher has a chance to swing a ballgame in his favor with a positive plate appearance,'' Wainwright said. ''Sometimes that's getting a bunt down, sometimes that's getting a hit when you need it. Off a tough pitcher like Gio, you have to take advantage of those situations.''
Matt Carpenter, activated from the paternity list before the game, followed with an RBI double.
That started Wainwright (5-3) on a path to his fifth straight win. The right-hander allowed four runs and six hits - including a career record-tying three home runs. He struck out five and walked none.
''My stuff is back,'' Wainwright declared. ''I've just got to hone it a little bit. Home runs sometimes can cost you the lead or a loss, but luckily our offense did a good job.''
Wainwright received a whopping 45 runs of support in his previous six starts. The trend continued in this one - with the pitcher himself as a main contributor.
''I almost love to hit more than I love to pitch,'' Wainwright said. ''It's close.''
He leads all major league pitchers this season in extra-base hits and RBIs (a career-high eight).
''He's had huge hits for us this year,'' manager Mike Matheny said. ''He smashed that ball today. He's putting together some good at-bats. He's also our best bunter. Just ask him.''
Ryan Zimmerman went 4 for 4 with two homers, and Bryce Harper had a solo shot for the Nationals, who send unbeaten Stephen Strasburg to the mound Sunday hoping to salvage a split of the four-game series.
Harper's home run was his 13th of the season and second in three games. But the reigning NL MVP is 7 for 43 (.163) since May 13, dropping his batting average 33 points to .245.
After St. Louis' big second inning, Zimmerman connected in the bottom half after Daniel Murphy hit a leadoff single. Murphy's hit was his 41st in May, most ever in one month by a Nationals player since the team moved from Montreal in 2005.
Holliday went deep in the third and Randal Grichuk snapped an 0-for-11 skid in the fifth with an RBI double. The hit chased Gonzalez, who gave up six runs, six hits and four walks over 4 2/3 innings. Half those walks came in the pivotal second inning.
''That got his pitch count up,'' manager Dusty Baker said. ''Then it really hurt when Wainwright got that double.''
Harper homered to deep center in the sixth, and Zimmerman hit his second of the game leading off the seventh to get Washington to 6-4.
Matt Adams answered with a pinch-hit, two-run double in the eighth.
Greg Garcia had three hits and an RBI for the Cardinals. Recalled from the minors Thursday when Carpenter was placed on the paternity list, Garcia is batting .647 in 11 big league games this season.
Cardinals: SS Jhonny Peralta (left thumb ligament) was held from the Double-A Springfield lineup Saturday night after cutting a finger on his right hand. The cut, which required stitches, will interrupt his rehabilitation assignment for a few days.
Nationals: RHP Matt Belisle (right calf strain) received treatment in the Nats training room before packing a bag and driving to nearby Woodbridge, Virginia, for a rehab stint with Class A Potomac. ''I feel great. Ready to rock,'' said Belisle, who was slated to throw two innings.
Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (2-5, 5.04 ERA) starts the finale Sunday after allowing 20 runs in his last three starts, including a career-high eight in his last outing vs. Chicago.
Nationals: Strasburg (8-0, 2.79) is 11-0 with a 2.14 ERA in last 14 starts, dating to Sept. 15.