After ups and downs last season after reconstructive elbow surgery, Adam Wainwright is reclaiming his role as the St. Louis Cardinals ace. His bat looks pretty good, too.
Wainwright pitched a four-hitter and drove in two runs with three hits, including a pair in a seven-run sixth inning, and Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-0 Saturday for their third straight shutout.
"He's back to himself," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He's healthy, and that's a great place to start. Seasons like last year teach you how to pitch more than just rely on great stuff."
Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo (0-1) endured yet another setback against his nemesis, falling to 1-10 with a 6.83 ERA versus St. Louis. Gallardo allowed six runs — five earned — and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings.
A 16-game winner coming off his fourth consecutive 200-strikeout season, he was 0-2 with a 12.34 ERA in three starts against St. Louis last season. Including a loss in the 2011 NL division series, Gallardo sinks to 1-11 with a 6.86 ERA against the Cardinals.
"It's just one of those things," Gallardo said. "I know I haven't had very many good ones, but the few that I've hung in there I was able to keep it together and not let it get out of hand like it happened today."
Cardinals pitchers have thrown 32 consecutive scoreless innings, and St. Louis is 4-1 going into Sunday's homestand finale. Jake Westbrook shut out Cincinnati on Wednesday, and rookie Shelby Miller combined with two relievers on a two-hitter against Milwaukee on Friday.
Minus injured Chris Carpenter and departed Kyle Lohse, the Cardinals rotation was thought to be a potential weakness.
"I said it in the beginning of the season, this league doesn't really know what kind of arms we have," said Wainwright, who was 14-13 with a 3.94 ERA last year. "We have some great arms. The world is seeing that."
Milwaukee, missing injured sluggers Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez, hasn't scored in 25 straight innings and is 1-8 since winning on opening day.
"When things don't go your way, it's always just 'Here we go again,'" Rickie Weeks said. "We are going to keep our heads up, that's what we do around here."
Wainwright (2-1) retired his first 10 batters and did not allow a ball out of the infield in that span. He matched his career best with 12 strikeouts in his fifth shutout and 12th complete game. He has yet to walk a batter in three starts over 22 innings.
When he was out in 2011, he noticed how much walks could hurt a pitcher.
"It's something I say to myself before every game: No free passes," Wainwright said. "Even when I get behind in the count, you can throw good quality pitches in the zone and let guys get themselves out or get a hit. At least make them earn it."
Wainwright singled twice with an RBI in the sixth, becoming the first Cardinals pitcher to get two hits in an inning since Braden Looper singled twice in the fifth against the Padres on Aug. 6, 2007. A career .202 hitter, Wainwright lined an RBI single over a drawn-in infield to put the Cardinals ahead in the third, then beat out an infield hit and added an RBI single off Burke Badenhop.
Wainwright's 1.94 career ERA against the Brewers is the lowest among active pitchers, and four of his last five starts against them have been complete games.
Ryan Braun struck out three times for the second straight day, and Logan Schafer also fanned three times. Weeks struck out twice and doubled in the seventh, stopping an 0-for-21 slide.
Jon Jay also singled twice with an RBI in the sixth, and Matt Holliday had a two-run single. Jay contributed a nice diving catch in center to rob Martin Maldonado of a hit in the fifth, one at-bat before Yuniesky Betancourt doubled.
Gallardo allowed a run and three hits entering the sixth, when six of the first seven batters reached safely.
NOTES: Attendance of 44,696 was the second sellout of the homestand. ... Saint Louis coach Jim Crews, who got a multiyear deal Friday after leading the Billikens to a school-record 28 wins, threw out the first pitch. The team was introduced prior to the game. ... RHP Shelby Miller is the fourth youngest Cardinal to work seven innings and allow one hit at 22 years and 184 days. He's behind Von McDaniel (18), Bud Smith (21) and Paul Deal (22 years, 38 days). Smith and Dean threw no-hitters and McDaniel also went nine innings. ... The Brewers were held to two singles for the first time Friday night since Sept. 24, 2008, against Pittsburgh. ... Brewers SS Alex Gonzalez did not play after getting hit by a pitch on his left hand Friday night, and was hoping to play in the series finale Sunday, with Marco Estrada (1-0, 4.50) opposing St. Louis lefty Jaime Garcia (1-0, 2.92).