ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha lost his no-hit bid on Ryan Zimmerman's infield single with two outs in the ninth inning, and St. Louis beat the Washington Nationals 2-0 Tuesday night to close in on the NL Central title.
Making his ninth career start, Wacha came about as close as possible to finishing off the third no-hitter in the majors this season. Instead, the Busch Stadium crowd let out a loud, collective groan as he became the third pitcher to have a bid broken up with one out to go.
Zimmerman hit a chopper just over the 6-foot-6 Wacha, and the ball bounced slowly toward shortstop. A charging Pete Kozma grabbed it with his bare hand and whipped a throw to first that was a little wide, pulling Matt Adams off the bag as Zimmerman arrived.
"I think it nicked off my glove a little bit," Wacha said.
As the ball left Zimmerman's bat, several Cardinals started to climb the dugout railing, ready to pour onto the field to celebrate. Second baseman Matt Carpenter did a little hop, all set for the final out.
But first base umpire Jeff Kellogg correctly called Zimmerman safe, and the Cardinals sagged right along with their fans.
Third baseman David Freese sat crouched in the infield, stunned at how close his 22-year-old teammate had come. Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright put his hands on his head in disbelief.
Wacha (4-1) was pulled after Zimmerman's hit and walked off to a huge ovation. The right-hander struck out nine and walked two.
"I guess I wasn't meant to throw one tonight," he said.
Trevor Rosenthal got Jayson Werth to ground out for his second save.
With anticipation building and fans on their feet in the ninth inning, Wacha retired pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi on a grounder to Kozma before throwing a called third strike past Denard Span.
But on the next pitch, Zimmerman spoiled it.
Texas' Yu Darvish lost a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning against Houston on April 2 and San Francisco's Yusmeiro Petit had his try at perfection end one out shy against Arizona on Sept 6.
Cincinnati's Homer Bailey and the Giants' Tim Lincecum threw no-hitters in July.
The last two no-hitters by St. Louis pitchers came from rookies - Bud Smith in 2001 and Jose Jimenez in 1999.
It has been 30 years since there was a no-hitter in St. Louis. Bob Forsch finished off his second for the Cardinals on Sept. 26, 1983, against Montreal.
Drafted 19th overall out of Texas A&M last year, Wacha has been up and down from the minors a couple of times this season. But he came up big for the Cardinals in the final week as they try to nail down their first division title since 2009.
St. Louis, which already clinched a playoff berth, began the night with a two-game lead in the NL Central over Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The Reds lost to the New York Mets 4-2, falling three games back with four to play.
The Cardinals have won four of five. They remained a half-game behind Atlanta for the best record in the NL.
Washington was eliminated from playoff contention with a 4-3 loss to St. Louis on Monday night. The Nationals have dropped three of four.
Wacha retired his first 14 batters before Adam LaRoche reached on an error by Carpenter at second base with two outs in the fourth.
Span tried to break up the no-hitter with a two-out bunt in the sixth. The ball rolled just foul near third base, and the crowd booed lustily.
Left fielder Shane Robinson made a running catch of a tailing liner off the bat of Anthony Rendon to end the eighth.
Robinson drove in Carpenter with a two-out single off Gio Gonzalez (11-8) in the third. Carpenter began the rally with his major league-leading 55th double.
Yadier Molina pushed the lead to 2-0 with a run-scoring double in the fourth.
Gonzalez came within inches of a no-hitter himself this month. He finished with a one-hit shutout against the Mets after pinch-hitter Zach Lutz's seventh-inning single landed right on the first base line behind the bag.
This time, Gonzalez allowed two runs and six hits over seven innings. He struck out six.
NOTES: Wacha was seeking the 11th no-hitter in Cardinals history. ... Nationals RHP Jordan Zimmermann (19-7, 3.18 ERA) gets his last scheduled shot at 20 wins on Wednesday when he faces RHP Shelby Miller (14-9, 3.12) in the finale of the three-game series. ... The Cardinals are 14-2 against NL East opponents at home.
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Carlos Beltran homered, Adam Wainwright earned his 18th win and the St. Louis Cardinals beat Washington 4-3 on Monday night, eliminating the Nationals from playoff contention.
Looking for their first NL Central title since 2009, the Cardinals maintained a two-game lead over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and reduced their magic number to four.
All three teams are headed to the postseason. The Reds and Pirates both won Monday night, clinching at least a wild-card berth when Washington lost.
St. Louis secured no worse than a wild card on Sunday.
All three NL Central contenders have five games left.
The Nationals won the NL East last season with 98 wins but were eliminated by St. Louis in the division series. One year later, they were knocked out by the Cardinals again.
Beltran's two-run homer in the fifth off rookie Tanner Roark broke a 2-all tie. It was Beltran's team-leading 24th of the season and first in 91 at-bats since Aug. 24.
Wainwright (18-9) gave up three runs and seven hits over seven-plus innings. He struck out five, giving him a career-high 214 on the season.
Jayson Werth hit a two-run homer on the 15th pitch of the game. Wainwright then retired nine in a row and allowed just one run on five hits the rest of the way. He moved into second in the NL in wins behind Washington right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who has 19.
Wainwright gave up two singles to begin the eighth. Trevor Rosenthal got two outs for his first career save.
Roark (7-1) gave up four runs and five hits in five innings for his first loss in four starts. He went 45 2-3 innings before allowing his first home run.
Washington closed to 4-3 in the eighth on singles by Anthony Rendon and Steve Lombardozzi and a groundout from Ryan Zimmerman. St. Louis reliever Carlos Martinez got Werth to ground out with a runner in scoring position to end the threat.
The Cardinals climbed within 2-1 on a run-scoring single by Yadier Molina in the first. They tied it on successive singles from David Freese, Daniel Descalso and Shane Robinson in the fourth.
Robinson replaced Matt Holliday in the lineup. Holliday was a game-time scratch for the second night in a row due to back spasms. He is day to day.
NOTES: Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon, 74, returned to the booth four weeks after undergoing surgery to replace an aortic valve in his heart. Shannon, who played on the Cardinals' 1964 and 1967 World Series championship teams, made his announcing debut in 1972. He received a standing ovation when his picture was flashed on the video screen during the second inning. ... The Cardinals have 92 wins, their most since winning 100 games in 2005. ... Cardinals 1B Allen Craig will be re-evaluated Thursday. Craig has missed the last 18 games with a left foot sprain sustained Sept. 4. ... The Nationals have a 24-8 advantage in homers over their last 17 games. ... St. Louis rookie Michael Wacha (3-1, 3.21 ERA) will face LHP Gio Gonzalez (11-7, 3.39) in the second game of the three-game set on Tuesday.
Fans of the one and only Cher will have a chance to see the music icon in the Gateway City next year as the she announced Monday that she will kick off her “Dressed To Kill” North American Tour beginning in Phoenix on March 22. The 67 year old will embark on the 49 city tour which will include stops in New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Las Vegas. Cher will appear in St. Louis at Scottrade Center on Wednesday, June 4. She has scheduled concerts in Kansas City and Louisville in the days before she is in St. Louis, and in Milwaukee and Chicago in the days after. Updated ticket information can be found on Cher.com. Cher will also be appearing as a mentor with Blake Shelton on NBC’s The Voice airing in October.