ST. LOUIS (AP) - Jack Flaherty didn't panic. Instead, the St. Louis Cardinals' right-hander simply stayed the course during a lengthy stretch without a victory.
That patience paid off Thursday.
Flaherty struck out nine in seven strong innings and catcher Matt Wieters hit a three-run homer as the Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 8-0 in a matchup of NL Central leaders.
The Cardinals won two games in the three-game set and claimed first in the division, a game ahead of Chicago. The Cubs have lost four of six overall and 11 of their last 16 on the road.
Flaherty (5-6) allowed just one hit and walked two in recording his first win since May 14, a span of 79 days and 12 starts.
He threw well at times during the skid - he allowed two earned runs or less in four successive starts coming into Thursday.
Most importantly, he remained philosophical during the rough stretch.
"It's going to take care of itself nine times out of 10," Flaherty said.
It certainly did.
Flaherty held the Cubs without a hit until newcomer Nicholas Castellanos singled to right with two out in the sixth. Flaherty retired 13 straight batters from the first to fifth innings.
"He was in control of what he was doing," St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. "He saw good life to his fastball. A lot of quality pitches."
Chicago left-hander Jon Lester, the losing pitcher, gave Flaherty credit for a job well done.
"He threw extremely well tonight," Lester said.
Flaherty has allowed just four runs over his last five starts with a 1.15 ERA covering 31 1/3 innings.
"Wieters and I were in sync from the get-go," Flaherty said. "I made an adjustment on the fastball. I was just trying to locate and execute - keep the ball down."
Wieters capped off a four-run, sixth-inning outburst with a three-run homer off Derek Holland to give the Cardinals a 6-0 lead.
"I was just trying to hit it hard," Wieters said. "Sometimes it goes, sometimes it doesn't."
Jose Martinez, Kolten Wong and Yairo Muniz had RBI singles for the Cardinals, who are coming off a 16-9 record in July.
Lester (9-7) gave up five earned runs on nine hits over five-plus innings. He struck out six and did not walk a batter.
Wong and Paul DeJong had three hits apiece.
Shildt is pleased that his team is on top of the division at the two-third mark of the campaign.
"We appreciate the position we're in," Shildt said. "We want to keep the foot on the gas."
The Cardinals recorded their fifth shutout of the season, all at home.
The home team has won 11 of 12 games between the teams this season.
Cardinals: OF Marcell Ozuna, playing at Triple-A Memphis this week, is likely to join the Cardinals in Oakland on Saturday. He has been out with two broken fingers, suffered in late June. C Yadi Molina, out since July 11 with a right thumb strain, will begin a rehab stint in Memphis on Friday. He is still at least a week away from joining the Cardinals, according to manager Mike Shildt. ... OF Tyler O'Neill has been slowed by a hand injury and was left out of the lineup. He is considered day to day.
"We don't think it's serious," Shildt said.
Cubs: LHP Jose Quintana (8-7, 4.47 ERA) faces off against Milwaukee RHP Zach Davies (8-4, 3.56 ERA) on Friday afternoon as the Cubs open up a three-game series at Wrigley Field. Quintana is 6-4 with a 2.80 ERA in 14 lifetime starts against the Brewers.
Cardinals: Dakota Hudson (10-5, 3.88 ERA) squares off Saturday against Oakland's Mike Fiers (9-3, 3.54 ERA) in the first of a two-game set in Oakland following a rare Friday night off. Hudson allowed three home runs in his last outing - a 6-2 loss to Houston on Sunday.