ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals' offense is back in one of those rough patches. They need to be out of this rut soon.
"There's nothing wrong with us getting a couple of hits early," manager Mike Matheny said after the Seattle Mariners snapped a five-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory Saturday night. "There's nothing wrong with getting a couple of runs."
Rookie James Paxton gave up two hits in six shutout innings, quieting a near-sellout crowd of 41,374, and the Cardinals dropped into a first-place tie in the NL Central.
"I was really just kind of locked in on the catcher, I didn't really hear the crowd much," Paxton said. "I kind of noticed how many people were there after they took me out of the game.
"I said to somebody, 'Wow, there's a lot of people here.'"
The Cardinals totaled 26 runs while sweeping the Pirates to regain the Central lead at the start of a nine-game homestand. They've scored three runs in two games against the Mariners and leadoff man Matt Carpenter thought the unfamiliarity has definitely been a factor.
"We've faced the Pirates 100 times and we know exactly what A.J. Burnett has, we know what Francisco Liriano has, and those kinds of guys," Carpenter said. "Then we come in here and we've got these guys, and nobody knows anything about anybody."
Now, St. Louis and Pittsburgh share the division lead once again. The Pirates topped the Cubs 2-1.
"We've got a chance to kind of control our own destiny," Carpenter said. "Hopefully at the end of this thing, we'll be happy where we are."
The Cardinals mustered only three hits, including Carpenter's league-leading 50th double in the eighth. He later scored on a wild pitch by Charlie Furbush.
Franklin Gutierrez hit a two-run double in the fifth inning that ended St. Louis rookie Michael Wacha's scoreless streak at 23 2/3 innings. Kendrys Morales hit his 22nd homer in eighth off Tyler Lyons to make it 3-0.
The St. Louis hitters have been struggling all week, and they never got going against the 24-year-old Paxton (2-0), who limited them to a pair of singles.
The first was by Wacha (3-1) in the third when Paxton came off the bag to field a tapper and then slipped and fell, losing his grip.
Paxton struck out five and walked two. He won his major league debut a week ago against Tampa Bay, allowing an earned run in six innings.
Danny Farquhar finished for his 14th save in 16 chances.
Wacha struck out five in his seventh career start, but also walked four in five innings.
Mariners pitchers were 0 for 20 with 13 strikeouts this year before Wacha walked Paxton on four pitches in the fifth to put runners on first and second with none out, setting up Gutierrez's double.
"He's trying to give me a free out, bunting the ball," Wacha said. "It's not acceptable, walking the pitcher. Anybody really. I wasn't really too excited about that."
Paxton said it was his first at-bat in more than a decade.
"I didn't really know what to do with the bat after I got walked," Paxton said. "I just kind of dropped it and then told the umpire when I was at second base I hadn't run the bases in about 11 years, gave him a little chuckle.
"It was fun to be out there and do that. It was pretty cool."
Seattle leadoff man Brad Miller was removed with a mild left hamstring strain after running out a sacrifice bunt in the fifth. Replacement Carlos Triunfel had a sacrifice fly in the ninth off Fernando Salas.
Yadier Molina, who threw out two runners attempting to steal in the same inning Friday, was the first Cardinals C to do that since manager Mike Matheny on May 1, 2001, at Florida. Matheny said he didn't remember the occasion, but added, "You don't normally get that many opportunities unless you're stinking, or else your pitcher's just giving you no chance." ... Morales has five homers in the last 10 games after going 28 games without a long ball.