ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A year ago at this time, Mark Mulder was in the midst of a second-half swoon that contributed to the Oakland Athletics missing the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
This August, he's hitting his stride with his new team.Mulder threw a five-hitter for his second shutout of the season and John Mabry hit a two-run homer, helping the St. Louis Cardinals
beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-0 on Wednesday night."I could care less about last year," Mulder said. "I feel good now and that's all that matters."The Cardinals are 76-44 and passed the Chicago White Sox (74-44) for the best record in the major leagues. Mulder was looking forward to telephoning former teammate Jermaine Dye to let him know."I told him, 'We're going to catch you,' and he goes, 'Whatever, dude,'" Mulder said. "We caught them."Mulder (14-6) has won seven of his last nine decisions and rebounded from a four-inning stint in Chicago on Aug. 11 in which he surrendered seven runs. He struck out four, walked two and benefited from three double plays. He has shut out the Diamondbacks in both of his career starts against them, the other a one-hitter in 2001.This was the 10th shutout of Mulder's career and his 24th complete game. Last year, he was 12-2 with a 3.21 ERA before the All-Star break and 5-6 with a 6.13 ERA the rest of the way."There's nothing different, I just got into a funk last year, that's it," Mulder said. "It's going to happen to somebody at some point in their career."A couple of years ago I had 10 or 11 wins in the second half so it's pointless, it's just how it happened," he said.Mulder contributed two hits to an 11-hit attack, including a run-scoring single in the seventh for his second RBI of the year that made it 4-0. He is 76-10 in 97 career starts when his team scores four or more runs and is 12-1 with a 1.96 ERA at night and 1-5 with a 7.57 ERA during the day."Until someone pointed it out I didn't know it," Mulder said. "Now people are making a story of it, but to me I didn't really know about it."Mabry doubled and scored in the second and hit his seventh homer off Brandon Webb (10-9) into the visitors' bullpen in the fourth to put the Cardinals ahead 3-0. He is 5-for-7 with four RBI for his career against Webb and 9-for-13 against the Diamondbacks, numbers that influenced manager Tony La Russa's decision to give him a spot start."He knows who does well against whom and he tries to put you in a situation where you can succeed," Mabry said. "He's been very good at that and the players that have been getting an opportunity have been taking advantage of that."Troy Glaus singled twice and walked for the Diamondbacks, who have lost four straight and are 2-6 with four games remaining on a 12-game trip. Arizona is 2-12 against the Cardinals the last three seasons, losing the first two games of a three-game series by a total of 13-2, and fell a season-worst nine games below .500.This one was all about Mulder's dominance."Everything we did, he seemed to make a pitch to get us to hit the ball on the ground," manager Bob Melvin said. "You have to stay away from trying to get greedy and pull the ball and try to do too much."Webb lasted 6 2/3 innings and gave up five runs and 11 hits. He is 0-3 against the Cardinals for his career with a 5.95 ERA.He had been 2-0 in his three previous starts, allowing four earned runs in 22 innings, but said Mabry's homer was the only hard-hit ball."I left that changeup up and zap, it was out of there," Webb said. "There's not much you can do with that."Mabry doubled to start the second and scored on Mark Grudzielanek's bunt single when first baseman Conor Jackson fielded the ball and threw wildly to first. Jim Edmonds doubled with one out in the fourth and Mabry followed with his seventh homer on a 1-0 pitch.Mulder had an RBI single and Abraham Nunez drove home another run with a squeeze bunt in a two-run seventh.
The Cardinals are 19-12 against the NL West. ... St. Louis starters lead the majors with 65 wins, 10 more than the second-place White Sox. ... So Taguchi of the Cardinals had two hits and is 18-for-36 during a career-best 10-game hitting streak.
... Glaus is 11-for-25 during a seven-game hitting streak. He is 10-for-16 against the Cardinals this year with a homer and three RBI.