After allowing 11 hits and five runs a week ago in a no-decision at Milwaukee, Adam Wainwright went back to the basics Saturday.
"Throw strike one, avoid the free passes and put the hitters away," Wainwright said.
By doing so, he came within five outs of treating a sellout crowd to the first no-hitter at Busch Stadium III.
But Nolan Arenado broke it up in the top of the eighth inning and Wainwright settled for a two-hitter in St. Louis' second straight 3-0 victory over Colorado.
Wainwright (5-2) walked one and struck out seven in his second shutout of the year and sixth of his career. It was the 13th complete game of Wainwright's career, but it was close to being so much more.
"I thought we were going to witness something special," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Actually, we did."
Less than 24 hours after rookie Shelby Miller pitched a one-hitter, retiring the last 27 men after Eric Young’s leadoff single, Wainwright nearly one-upped Miller.
Mixing a fastball, cutter and curve, Wainwright had the Rockies off-balance from the start.
Wainwright set down the first 13 batters before walking Todd Helton on a full-count fastball in the fifth, ending a string of 40 straight outs by Colorado batters.
As the innings went by and the Rockies remained stuck on zero in the hit column, Wainwright grew more and more lonely in the dugout as one of baseball's oldest superstitions took root.
"Guys were avoiding the right side of the dugout after the fifth," Wainwright said, laughing.
When second baseman Matt Carpenter robbed Todd Helton of a single with a diving stop and accurate throw to start the eighth, the audience of 43,050 went into full roar.
But Arenado quashed their hopes of seeing the first St. Louis no-hitter at home in 30 years, since Bob Forsch did it to Montreal on Sept. 26, 1983, by lining a 1-and-0 pitch into center field.
Catcher Yadier Molina was visibly upset after the no-hit bid ended.
"He really thought (Wainwright) had no-hit stuff today," Matheny said. "Of course, it's hard not to celebrate a complete game and two-hit shutout. He seemed to have everything working on both sides of the plate."
Everything seems to be working for Cardinal pitchers, who own seven shutouts and are working on a scoreless string of 21 innings, dating to the sixth inning of Wednesday's 5-4 victory in Chicago.
St. Louis improved its major league-best record to 23-12 with its ninth victory in the last 10 games.
The Cardinals were wasteful offensively, leaving the bases loaded in the second and fourth, as Jhoulys Chacin whiffed Pete Kozma and Wainwright to escape those jams.
St. Louis failed to score in the second despite accumulating a leadoff triple, a walk and a single.
But the Cardinals finally managed two runs off Chacin (3-3) in the fifth. Allen Craig's sacrifice fly to center scored Carpenter with the first run and Matt Adams chased Jon Jay home from second with a two-out single to right field.
In the seventh, Molina tacked on the last run with an RBI single off reliever Josh Outman that scored Holliday. The Cardinals finished with 13 hits, three by Craig, but stranded 12 runners.
However, none of that mattered because Wainwright followed up Miller's gem with one of his own.
"When you're following up Roger Clemens, I mean Shelby Miller, it makes you focus," Wainwright said. "I got myself into trouble the last game and I wanted to pound the zone today with strikes. I just wanted my players behind me to know what they were getting."
It was the fourth straight defeat for Colorado (19-17), which hasn't scored since the first inning of a 3-1 loss to the New York Yankees on Thursday.
NOTES: Right-hander Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals took another step forward in his comeback bid Friday, throwing 75 pitches in a bullpen session and pronouncing himself pain-free. Carpenter, who thought in February that his career might be over because of nerve damage in his right shoulder, plans to throw in the bullpen again on Monday. ... When Todd Helton hits his next double, it will tie Charlie Gehringer for 19th in major-league history with 574. ... Shelby Miller's one-hit shutout Friday night was the lowest-hit game by a Cardinal rookie pitcher since Bud Smith's Labor Day no-hitter in 2001 at San Diego.