St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright’s bid to become baseball’s first 15-game winner is coming in unfamiliar territory, but that might be for the best.
Possibly baseball’s best road pitcher, Wainwright will make his first career start at Marlins Park on Tuesday night as two of the clubs contending for NL wild-card position play the second of a three-game series.
Miami (58-60) opened the series with Monday’s 6-5 win, its third straight over St. Louis (62-55) to close the gap separating the two for the second wild-card spot to 4 1/2 games.
Giancarlo Stanton hit a pair of home runs to match Jose Abreu and Nelson Cruz for the big league lead with 31. The Marlins’ slugger has left the yard five times in as many games with eight RBIs.
"Just feeling better and having better at-bats and pitch selection is a little better," Stanton said.
Continuing the pace against Wainwright, who is tied with Garrett Richards for baseball’s lowest rate of home runs per nine innings (0.28), will be difficult. Stanton’s next homer will move him ahead of Hanley Ramirez for second on the franchise list. At 148, he’s nearing Dan Uggla’s club mark of 154.
Christian Yelich and Casey McGehee continued to feast on St. Louis pitching. Yelich went 3 for 4 with an RBI to improve to 9 for 19 with five RBIs in four 2014 games against the Cardinals, while McGehee’s 2-for-4 night bumped him to 9 for 17 in the season series.
The Cardinals were passed for the top wild-card spot after a ninth-inning rally fell short and Pittsburgh won. They wasted a 4-for-4 game from Matt Holliday – a career .360 hitter in Miami – while Jon Jay homered for the second time in three games.
St. Louis has lost three of four with pitching garnering most of the concern. The Cardinals have surrendered double-digit hit efforts in four straight games – one shy of a season high – with a .359 opponents’ batting average. Starters have shouldered much of that with an 11.21 ERA and .430 opponents’ average.
Wainwright (14-6, 2.28 ERA), however, has not been a part of it.
The 32-year-old earned the decision in Thursday’s 5-2 home win over Boston while allowing two runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings, including a late jam which manager Mike Matheny let him pitch out of.
"This guy impresses me so often – and times like this, pitches like that, games like this, he just takes it to another level with the way all of us look at him," Matheny told MLB’s official website. "He just continues to lead this club."
Away from Busch Stadium, the right-hander is 9-3 in 13 starts with a 1.32 ERA, the lowest road mark in baseball.
Wainwright will face the Marlins for the first time since 2010. He’s 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA in six starts and two relief appearances against them.
McGehee saw plenty of him in his time in the NL Central, going 1 for 15.
Miami counters with Jarred Cosart (0-1, 6.75), who was scratched from what would have been his second start in a Marlins uniform. He was experiencing some back discomfort leading into his scheduled start Thursday, so he’s had 11 days off since his club debut on Aug. 1. He threw Saturday without any discomfort.
"I let it go pretty good today," Cosart said. "I’m good to go. I’m excited."
Miami dropped his debut 5-2 to Cincinnati after the right-hander yielded four runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings.
That’s been about the norm for the 24-year-old since the beginning of July when he was still with Houston, going 1-3 with a 7.76 ERA in five starts.