ST. LOUIS (AP) Saturday night was one of firsts for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Rookie second baseman Alex Mejia's first two major league hits - including an eighth-inning home run - and Matt Bowman's first career save were the difference as the Cardinals defeated the Washington Nationals 2-1.
"He's a stud," Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha said of Mejia. "He made great plays on defense and then drove in our two RBIs. For a rookie that's pretty amazing stuff."
The Cardinals have won four straight, taking series victories against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Nationals, and six of their last seven.
Washington, which is the only team in the National League yet to be shut out this season, has lost three straight and five of their last seven.
"Wacha was good and he was very good," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "It was a well-pitched ballgame. ... They kept us in the ballpark the last couple days which is hard to do and we're due to erupt before we leave from here."
Wacha (5-3), celebrating his 26th birthday, was coming off his best start in more than a month and was even better against Washington with six scoreless innings. He surrendered four hits, struck out a season-high nine and walked one.
"I felt like I was able to command the baseball the way I wanted to tonight," Wacha said.
Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez (7-3) was nearly as good against an all right-handed hitting Cardinals lineup that included four rookies. He allowed one run and two hits over seven innings, striking out nine and walking two.
Mejia, appearing in his third game since being called up, provided the offense.
His first hit, an RBI single to center, gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead in the second inning. In the eighth, he deposited the first pitch from reliever Sammy Solis into the left field seats for his first home run and a 2-0 lead.
Mejia then received his first curtain call from the announced crowd of 43,614.
"That was pretty cool," he said. "That was a really neat feeling, actually, having that many fans support you. It's just an awesome feeling."
The Nationals rallied in the ninth, getting an RBI single from Stephen Drew and loading the bases with two outs against Trevor Rosenthal. But then Matheny turned to Bowman and he was able to strike out pinch-hitter Adrian Sanchez looking on the ninth pitch of the at-bat for his first career save.
The final strike was a questionable call that went the Cardinals' way.
"I saw it a little outside but that's the way I saw it and I thought I had walked but he called it a strike," Sanchez said.
Matheny earned win No. 500 on Saturday, becoming the second-fastest Cardinals manager to reach that number behind Billy Southworth. Matheny is also the second-fastest active manager to reach that mark behind Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees.
"The odds of me being around long enough to win 500 were probably pretty low when we started this gig," Matheny said. "So humbled and grateful and been blessed with some amazing talent in the clubhouse, both on the field and with the staff and the support."
Yadier Molina's fourth-inning single extended his hitting streak to 16 games, which tied his career-long. He also had a 16-game hit streak earlier this season.
Wacha's fourth-inning strikeout of Ryan Zimmerman was the 500th of his career and came in his 106th game, making him the second-fastest St. Louis Cardinal (after Steve Carlton) to reach that milestone.
Nationals: Solis (left elbow inflammation) was activated from the DL. ... RHP Jacob Turner was designated for assignment.
Cardinals: LHP Zach Duke (left elbow surgery) appeared in his second consecutive game for Single-A Gulf Coast on Saturday, striking out two in a scoreless inning.
Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (9-5, 2.06 ERA), a St. Louis area native, is 1-4 with a 3.14 ERA in seven career starts against the Cardinals. He is 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA in three starts at Busch Stadium.
Cardinals: RHP Carlos Martinez (6-6, 2.88 ERA) is 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA in five career appearances, including one start, against Washington.