ST. LOUIS — Michael Wacha is becoming accustomed to handling the mental and physical challenges presented by rain delays.
Wacha returned from a 46-minute stoppage in play Sunday afternoon and was effective enough to lead the St. Louis Cardinals past the Chicago Cubs 6-4 before 44,135 at Busch Stadium.
Wacha, whose three starts this season have all included rain delays, worked 6 1/3 innings and allowed three runs (earned) on five hits. He walked one and struck out eight to improve to 2-0.
"It's been pretty crazy with the weather on the days that I pitch," said Wacha, who has a 1.89 ERA. "But you just have to accept it and you've got to stay focused in order to go back out there."
Wacha allowed two runs on two hits in his first three innings. One of the hits was a two-run homer by Anthony Rizzo that gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the first.
The delay came in the bottom of the third, and when Wacha returned, he permitted one run on three hits. He departed with a runner on second and one out in the seventh.
"I was able to settle down a little bit (after the delay)," Wacha said. "I had some quick innings and was able to get some quick outs, which I needed. Our offense came through and picked me up in big-time ways. Whenever I gave up the lead, we would come back and score. So it ended up being a pretty good day.
"I was a little erratic out there, but overall, I felt good and my arm felt good. It's good to win the series against them."
The victory gave the Cardinals (7-5) two out of three against Chicago and enabled them to finish the homestand 4-2.
Matt Carpenter drove in three runs for the Cardinals. Kolten Wong, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Jhonny Peralta had two hits apiece, and Allen Craig scored two runs. Carpenter's sacrifice fly in the fourth put St. Louis ahead for good at 4-3.
Wacha said he stayed loose during the rain delay by "tossing every 10 minutes or so" in the indoor hitting cages.
"I wasn't throwing real hard down there," Wacha said. "Just keeping the arm loose and active for the rain delay."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was impressed that Wacha looked ever better after the delay.
"His changeup was better after we had the break," Matheny said. "His curveball was an effective pitch that he used in multiple situations to strike guys out or get an early strike. The fastball, he looked good with it. He used it up above the (strike) zone, in, down. It was a good mix of everything he had."
Matheny said it's as much a mental battle as a physical one when a starting pitcher, accustomed to routine, is thrown off that course.
"He kept tossing lighting down there," Matheny said of Wacha. "We had a pretty good idea (the delay) might not last too long. In the meanwhile, Michael just kind of stayed loose. He looked good when he came back out."
Carpenter's two-run single and Wong's RBI single, both against Edwin Jackson (0-1), put the Cardinals ahead 3-2 in the second.
After the Cubs knotted the game at 3 on Welington Castillo's two-out single in the fourth, the Cardinals moved back ahead on Carpenter's sacrifice fly that scored Peter Bourjos, who led off with a triple into the right-field corner.
Singles by Molina and Craig with one out in the eighth set up an RBI double by Peralta that made it 5-3 against Blake Parker. Bourjos then hit a smash off Cubs third baseman Mike Olt for an error. Olt tried to recover, but his throw home was wild as Craig scored.
Kevin Siegrist relieved Wacha with one out in the seventh and stranded Olt, who had doubled. Siegrist then blew through the Cubs in the eighth to get the ball to Trevor Rosenthal.
Rosenthal allowed a triple to Junior Lake and an RBI single to Olt in the ninth that made it 6-4, and after Rosenthal hit Castillo with a pitch, the Cubs had runners at first and second with one out. But Rosenthal retired the next two hitters for his fourth save.