ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright enjoyed a luxury he had not yet seen in 2014 as he faced the Cubs at Busch Stadium on Saturday -- run support.
The Cardinals bats scored early and often, knocking out Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva after three-plus innings, evening the series with a 10-4 rout before an announced crowd of 45,302.
The Cardinals had scored one run in each of Wainwright's two previous starts this season. Wainwright, who improved to 2-1, won a 1-0 decision at Cincinnati on Opening Day, but was on the short end of a 2-1 loss in Pittsburgh.
"The offense did a great job today scoring some runs," Wainwright said. "It's no surprise to me, we're going to hit fine. We've faced some tough pitching and we've had some things that we usually do really well that we haven't done well, and that's just baseball. There's going to be plenty of times where our hitters pick up our pitchers this year."
The Cardinals' runs came in bunches. They batted around in the second, when Matt Adams started the rally with his first home run of the season. The Cardinals next six hitters had five hits, all singles. Daniel Descalso, Wainwright and Matt Carpenter picked up RBI hits during that span as the Cardinals took a 4-1 lead.
The Cardinals blew the game open in the fourth, sending 10 batters to the plate in a five-run outburst. Carpenter and Matt Holliday each had RBI singles and Jon Jay picked up a pair of RBIs with a two-out hit to make it 9-2.
"It's nice to get some runs, especially for Adam [Wainwright] and let him do his thing," manager Mike Matheny said. "We took some good at-bats right from the top. Guys were not letting many pitches in the middle of the plate go by without a good pass on it."
Nine runs were charged to Villanueva, who departed after retiring just nine of the 21 batters he faced.
"The two innings were tough," Villanueva said. "I got two swinging bunts, and a couple forceouts that went the other way. Things unraveled quick. I didn't feel bad, I felt I had the stuff. They're a good team and they took advantage of our mistakes and they got me out of there quick."
The run support for Wainwright was timely as the right-hander didn't have his usual command.
Junior Lake led off the game by hitting Wainwright's first pitch over the left-field wall to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
"He's an aggressive hitter, I should have known he was swinging there," Wainwright said. "That's OK to throw a fastball when you know they are swinging, you just have to locate your heaters. Its one of those times today where I left it over the plate."
The Cubs picked up another run in the fourth and two more in the sixth on RBI doubles by Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney.
Wainwright went seven innings, allowed four runs on seven hits and struck out eight. More importantly, Wainwright went deep into the game saving a taxed bullpen. Randy Choate and Seth Maness picked up the final six outs in relief.
"Today instead of being just off the plate, I was just on the plate and usually I'm going to be a little more on the corners," Wainwright said. "But you know what? We win the game and beat a tough Cubs team and we'll be ready tomorrow."
The Cardinals tacked on their final run in the sixth when a Yadier Molina groundout scored Holliday.
Central to the Cardinals offensive breakout were contributions from unexpected sources. Descalso started at short for the first time this season and had a pair of hits, an RBI and scored twice. Jay, starting in center for Peter Bourjos, had an RBI single and several strong defensive plays.
"It was nice to come out and score 10 runs no matter who is in the lineup," Descalso said. "When you get an opportunity you have to go out there and take advantage of it. I was happy to be able to have a couple good at-bats and help out today."
"We're trying to keep them all sharp and it's hard to do it when you see a guy like Kolten [Wong] go on a good run and you see a guy like Jhonny [Peralta] just try to get going," Matheny said. "Hopefully a day's rest for Jhonny today will help with that, but Danny [Descalso] stepped in and did a great job once again without a lot of repetition."
The Cardinals had a run taken away with a replay challenge in the third. First-base umpire Jerry Layne originally ruled Jay safe at first as Jay tried to beat out a Starlin Castro throw after a diving stop up the middle. Had the call stood, Molina would have scored. But Cubs manager Rick Renteria challenged and the call was overturned, ending the inning.
Chris Rusin, who was called up from Triple-A Iowa before the game, saved the Cubs bullpen with five innings of relief after Villanueva's early exit. Rusin gave up one run on three hits, struck out one and walked one. He was promptly sent back down to Iowa after the game.
Matheny hopes the Cardinals' offense is just getting started.
"For the most part, it's a timing issue, that's all it is," Matheny said. "This hitting thing is a hard deal and they look like they're getting closer. Obviously, today is a great representation. I think that's the kind of team we have. We can throw up huge offensive production pretty much anytime. It's just a matter of when they start clicking and then it's just a matter of trying to keep it up as long as we can."
Joe Harris is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.