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Cards ride 4-run first in rout of D-backs

PHOENIX -- Buoyed by a four-run first inning, the Cardinals cruised to a 9-1 win over the D-backs on Tuesday to further fortify their National League Central lead.

With a second victory in as many nights at Chase Field, the Cardinals capitalized on Pittsburgh's loss in Miami to increase their division lead to 4 1/2 games. Arizona falls 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Dodgers in the NL West. The Cardinals also became the Majors' first team to 80 wins.

"We're right in the middle of a dogfight in the division, and I think it's good for us, honestly, because we just keep pressing and making sure that we're not backing off at all," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "There's no time for that."

Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia, who hasn't given up more than three runs in a start this year, watched his club score four while sending nine batters to the plate against Arizona lefty Robbie Ray in the first. That was just the start for the Cardinals' offense, which pounded out 12 hits, including five with runners in scoring position, and benefited from Tommy Pham's three-hit night.

Ray's night ended before he retired a batter in the fourth. He was charged with six runs in the 91-pitch outing. Garcia rolled to his sixth win, while allowing one run on four hits over six innings. His ERA dipped to 1.77, the second-lowest in the Majors among pitchers with at least 13 starts.

"We're better than losing 9-1 to the Cardinals," D-backs outfielder A.J. Pollock said. "They're a good team. We're a good team. It got away from us pretty early."

Frenetic first: Garcia made an appearance at the plate before he threw a pitch over it, as the Cardinals batted through the order in a 25-minute top of the first inning. Ray, who threw 44 pitches in the frame, allowed run-scoring hits to Jason Heyward, Yadier Molina and Kolten Wong as St. Louis raced out to a 4-0 lead. The Cards also swiped two bases in the frame.

"It's a good feeling when you have to get up to hit in the first inning," Garcia said. "It means something good is happening. My goal then is no matter what we do offensively, keep the same mentality and try to go as deep as I can." More >

Video: [email protected]: Molina doubles home Heyward in the 1st

Goldy lone bright spot: The D-backs' offense did not do much damage, but Paul Goldschmidt bounced back after having an off night on Monday. Goldschmidt had a pair of hits, including a double to right-center that was hit so hard it stuck in between the padding of the wall.

"The offense kind of got a little stuck," Pollock said. "We've got to do a better job of sticking with our plan." More >

Video: [email protected]: Goldschmidt's double gets stuck in the wall

Wong getting right? Out of the starting lineup for three straight games in an effort to reset, starting second baseman Wong returned and contributed a multi-hit night from the seventh spot in the order. His RBI single in the first inning capped the Cardinals' scoring in that frame. With two hits in his first three at-bats, Wong matched his hit total from his previous 29 at-bats.

"I came into today not caring if I got a hit or not," Wong said. "It was more about putting good at-bats together, barreling up balls. I accomplished that with the hits, so it was a good day today." More >

Video: [email protected]: Wong plates Molina with RBI single

"Peter Bourjos has really been everything we could ask him to be in the situation we have put him in. It's nice to be able to get him in there and have him do something. That feels good." -- Matheny, after Bourjos snapped an 0-for-20 skid with a pinch-hit home run

Video: [email protected]: Bourjos belts solo shot to left in the 7th

This Cardinals club is just the sixth in franchise history to reach the 80-wins mark after 125 games. It happened previously in 1931, '42, '44, '68 and 2004.

Cardinals: Right-hander John Lackey, who has pitched at least six innings in each of his last 13 starts, will take the mound for the Cardinals in Wednesday's 8:40 pm CT game against the D-backs. Lackey last faced Arizona in 2010.

D-backs: Patrick Corbin will make his 10th start of the year and the first of his career against the Cardinals on Wednesday night at 6:40 p.m. MST. Corbin missed the entire 2014 season and the first three months of this one after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

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Steve Gilbert and Jenifer Langosch are reporters for
Read More: Jason Heyward, Aaron Hill, Robbie Ray, Jaime Garcia, Kolten Wong, Yadier Molina