The St. Louis Cardinals just keep on winning. On Wednesday night, the victories took place on and off the field.
Minutes before they polished off a 4-2 victory over the Washington Nationals that stretched their season-long winning streak to eight, they got the evening's biggest triumph: X-rays on National League home run leader and MVP candidate Matt Carpenter came back negative.
Carpenter left the game in the bottom of the seventh after being drilled on the back of the hand by a Matt Grace fastball. The air seemed to go out of the stadium as well as the Fox Sports Midwest booth, but news arrived an inning later that Carpenter checked out all right.
Interim manager Mike Shildt, who shot Grace an icy glare as he walked off the field after he lifted Carpenter, expects him to play when St. Louis aims to complete a four-game sweep on Thursday night in Busch Stadium.
"He told me he'd be ready to go," Shildt said. "We'll be smart about it. I anticipate Carpenter to play tomorrow."
Carpenter, who has clouted 33 homers and has spearheaded the team's surge into contention in both the NL Central and wild-card races, used an intentional walk in the fifth to up his streak of reaching base to 33 straight games.
But the Cardinals (66-55) have been a lot more than Carpenter of late. Center fielder Harrison Bader is defending at a Gold Glove level while hitting .273 with occasional power and changing games with his baserunning.
He went 3-for-4 Wednesday night, creating a fifth-inning run by scoring on a wild pitch that might have bounced about 15 feet to the left of catcher Spencer Kieboom. Bader also ranged nearly 70 feet to deny Bryce Harper an extra-base hit with a diving catch to end the fourth.
"Pitchers are doing a good job pounding the zone," Bader said. "They have confidence in their teammates, so it's nice to run one down for them."
Luke Weaver (6-10, 4.66 ERA) will get the call for St. Louis after skipping his Sunday start in Kansas City as the result of an odd injury. Weaver cut his index finger opening an aluminum foil lining on a can of food Saturday, and the team opted to use Tyson Ross in his place.
Weaver hasn't pitched since a 2-1 loss on Aug. 6 in Miami -- the last time St. Louis dropped a game. Weaver logged a quality start, allowing seven hits and two runs in six innings with no walks and five strikeouts. Thursday will be his first career appearance against Washington.
Tanner Roark (7-12, 4.12) will attempt to keep his recent roll going for the Nationals (60-61). He has won his last four starts, beating the Chicago Cubs 9-4 on Saturday as he scattered nine hits over 7 2/3 innings. Roark ceded just two runs, walking one and whiffing seven.
"There's still definitely things I need to work on and just maintain," Roark said to mlb.com.
Roark is 1-2 with a 6.00 earned run average in five career games against the Cardinals, three of them starts. He has not faced the Cardinals this season.
Washington has lost four in a row and is nine games off Atlanta's first-place pace in the NL East.