ST. LOUIS -- Slotted into the leadoff spot in Matt Carpenter's absence, Kolten Wong sparked a pair of early rallies to build a lead for fill-in starter Luke Weaver, who coasted through seven innings as the Cardinals evened their series against the Padres with a 6-2 win at Busch Stadium
ST. LOUIS -- Slotted into the leadoff spot in Matt Carpenter's absence, Kolten Wong sparked a pair of early rallies to build a lead for fill-in starter Luke Weaver, who coasted through seven innings as the Cardinals evened their series against the Padres with a 6-2 win at Busch Stadium on Wednesday.
Wong doubled and scored as the Cardinals pounced on Padres starter Jhoulys Chacin for two first-inning runs and then scored again after opening the third with a single to left. Wong finished the night with three hits and tied career highs with three runs scored and two stolen bases.
"I mean obviously I'm not looking at this as a tryout or anything," said Wong, who'll wear his nickname "Wonger" on his jersey for Players Weekend this Friday-Sunday. "We know Carp's been the [leadoff] guy for the whole season, basically. I'm just taking over for him today, [for] however much time he needs to get better."
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Chacin, who threw 92 pitches over 4 2/3 innings, complicated things for himself along the way, too. He hit four batters -- the first pitcher in franchise history to do so -- and helped the Cardinals pad their lead with an errant pickoff throw and wild pitch. He jammed his right hand while swinging in the top of the fifth and struggled to grip his fastball after that.
"I didn't have a good feel for the ball, especially my fastball," Chacin said. "That's why I was throwing breaking balls in that inning. ... But overall, I just wasn't throwing strikes, and I wasn't commanding my fastball. That's what's going to happen. You're going to give up runs, and you're going to put your team in a bad spot."
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The gift-wrapped runs weren't necessary for Weaver, who stepped in for an injured Adam Wainwright and became the first Cardinals pitcher with a scoreless start since July 28, when Michael Wacha twirled six shutout innings. The outing snapped a streak of 12 consecutive games in which the Cardinals had allowed five or more runs and came one night after the Padres plated a season-high 12 runs.
The victory kept the Cardinals 4 1/2 games back of the Cubs in the National League Central and pulled them to within one game of second-place Milwaukee. St. Louis pulled to within four games of the Rockies for the second NL Wild Card spot.
"All of us, we all know this is it right now," Wong said. "Our playoffs have started from last week. We know every game is important for us, and that's why we're playing as hard as we can and we're trying to get as many victories as we can."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Escape act: The only bit of resistance Weaver faced in his third start of the season came in the fourth, when, with two out, the Padres loaded the bases with an infield hit, walk and hit batsmen. Holding a 3-0 lead, Weaver worked ahead of Padres outfielder Jabari Blash before elevating a 96 mph fastball that Blash tipped into the mitt of catcher Yadier Molina. Weaver finished with 10 strikeouts, matching his career high.
"Some of these teams will try to swing at that pitch sometimes, and it's a pitch that has helped me in the past when I'm able to execute [it]," Weaver said of the elevated fastball. "I rear back, try to get it up and get a swing-and-miss or popup or something like that. I'll kind of keep building off of that."
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Ready relief: The late innings have been much too adventurous for the Cardinals' liking as of late, but Tyler Lyons once again offered stability by halting the Padres' attempt to generate some eighth-inning momentum. Reliever Seunghwan Oh opened the inning by allowing two consecutive hits, including an RBI triple to Manuel Margot, who'll wear "Yoandry" on Players Weekend. Lyons took over from there and ran his scoreless-innings streak to 14 2/3 innings while stranding Margot at third.
"I thought Tyler did a terrific job," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That's a big situation to come in and really change that momentum when it could have gone in the wrong direction and stayed in the wrong direction. But he made some really nice pitches."
"He wanted to keep pitching, because that's the way he's wired. It's what you find out after you take a guy out of the ballgame, how he's feeling." -- Padres manager Andy Green on Chacin's inability to grip his fastball
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Five Cardinals were plunked by Padres pitchers Thursday night, setting franchise records on both ends. In fact, it marked just the ninth game in history to feature one pitching staff hitting five opposing batters. Chacin, meanwhile, tacked on two hits of his own, becoming the first player in history to notch two hits and plunk four batters in the same game.
NICE THROW, MARGOT
Jedd Gyorko, who singled home Wong in the third, continued to torch his former club with another RBI single in the eighth inning. It would've scored two runs if not for an excellent throw from Margot in center field. Tommy Pham was initially ruled safe at the plate, but the Padres challenged the call. Replays confirmed catcher Austin Hedges applied the tag in plenty of time.
Padres: Right-hander Luis Perdomo will make his first career appearance in St. Louis Thursday at 4:15 p.m. PT. Perdomo was signed by the Cardinals in 2010, but he was acquired by the Padres at the 2015 Rule 5 Draft and has developed into a rotation mainstay in San Diego.
Cardinals:Carlos Martinez (aka "Tsunami" for Players Weekend) will start Thursday's 6:15 p.m. CT series finale against the Padres. Key for Martinez will be getting through the first inning, a frame in which he has a 6.84 season ERA. He is 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA in two previous starts against the Padres at Busch Stadium.
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AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.