ST. LOUIS – Jack Flaherty didn’t panic. Instead, the St. Louis Cardinals’ right-hander simply stayed the course during a lengthy stretch without a victory.
That patience paid off Thursday.
Flaherty struck out nine in seven strong innings and catcher Matt Wieters hit a three-run homer as the Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 8-0 in a matchup of NL Central leaders.
St. Louis won two games in the three-game set and claimed first in the division, a game ahead of Chicago. The Cubs have lost four of six overall and 11 of their last 16 on the road.
Flaherty (5-6) allowed just one hit and walked two in recording his first win since May 14, a span of 79 days and 12 starts.
He threw well at times during the skid — he allowed two earned runs or less in four successive starts coming into Thursday.
Most importantly, he remained philosophical during the rough stretch.
“It’s going to take care of itself nine times out of 10,” Flaherty said.
It certainly did.
Flaherty held the Cubs without a hit until newcomer Nicholas Castellanos singled to right with two out in the sixth. Flaherty retired 13 straight batters from the first to fifth innings.
“He was in control of what he was doing,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “He saw good life to his fastball. A lot of quality pitches.”
Chicago left-hander Jon Lester, the losing pitcher, gave Flaherty credit for a job well done.
“He threw extremely well tonight,” Lester said.
Flaherty has allowed just four runs over his last five starts with a 1.15 ERA covering 31⅓ innings.
“Wieters and I were in sync from the get-go,” Flaherty said. “I made an adjustment on the fastball.
“I was just trying to locate and execute — keep the ball down.”
Wieters capped off a four-run, sixth-inning outburst with a three-run homer off Derek Holland to give St. Louis a 6-0 lead.
“I was just trying to hit it hard,” Wieters said. “Sometimes it goes, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Jose Martinez, Kolten Wong and Yairo Muniz had RBI singles for St. Louis, which is coming off a 16-9 record in July.
Lester (9-7) gave up five earned runs on nine hits over five-plus innings. He struck out six and did not walk a batter.
Wong and Paul DeJong had three hits apiece.
Shildt is pleased that his team is on top of the division at the two-third mark of the campaign.
“We appreciate the position we’re in,” Shildt said. “We want to keep the foot on the gas.”
Astros 7, Indians 1
In Cleveland, Gerrit Cole pitched one-run ball over seven innings and extended his winning streak to a career-best nine games as Houston beat the Indians, spoiling the home debut of Yasiel Puig and the return of Danny Salazar.
Rays 9, Red Sox 4
In Boston, rookie left-hander Brendan McKay struck out seven and Mike Zunino and Austin Meadows homered as Tampa Bay completed a three-game sweep over the Red Sox.
Phillies 10, Giants 2
In Philadelphia, J.T. Realmuto hit a three-run homer and fell a triple shy of the cycle, Cesar Hernandez and Roman Quinn also went deep and the Phillies beat San Francisco.
Marlins 5, Twins 4 (12)
In Miami, newly acquired Minnesota reliever Sam Dyson blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning, then Harold Ramirez hit a leadoff homer in the 12th to make the Marlins a winner.
Blue Jays 11, Orioles 2
In Baltimore, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit two of Toronto’s five home runs to back a solid performance by fellow rookie Trent Thornton in a win over the Orioles.
In Other Games
Mets 4, White Sox 0
Athletics 5, Brewers 3
Braves 4, Reds 1 (7)
Dodgers 8, Padres 2
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5