(AP) — Adam Wainwright finally looks like the ace he was before missing all of last season due to Tommy John surgery.
That’s been the norm when he’s faced the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The St. Louis Cardinals turn to Wainwright as they seek a seventh consecutive victory over Arizona on Wednesday night.
It’s understandable that the right-hander was erratic throughout much of the first half as he worked himself back into form, but that period seems to be over if his last five starts are any indication.
Wainwright (10-10, 3.90 ERA) is 3-1 with a 1.73 ERA in that stretch, striking out 35 and walking five over 36 1-3 innings. After pitching a complete game in a 6-1 win over Milwaukee on Aug. 4, he was nearly as sharp in working seven innings of a 3-1 victory Thursday versus San Francisco.
Both of those outings came at Busch Stadium, where he’s won four straight starts behind a 1.53 ERA.
“He certainly has that rhythm going like he did awhile back, where he gets that ball and he knows he’s going to execute that pitch,” manager Mike Matheny told the Cardinals’ official website. “It’s been fun to watch these last two starts because that’s what he looks like when he’s really on top of his game. It’s nice to see that come back.”
The Diamondbacks are plenty familiar with that type of performance. Wainwright hasn’t faced them this year, but he’s 4-2 with a 2.15 ERA in six career starts against Arizona, allowing two earned runs or fewer in each. Justin Upton is hitless in seven at-bats against Wainwright.
The Cardinals (63-53) have dominated the season series regardless of who’s been on the mound. They are 4-0 against the Diamondbacks this year – winning 8-2 in Tuesday’s series opener in St. Louis – after taking the final two meetings last season.
They’re hitting .326 during the six-game streak while scoring six runs or more five times. They’ve also won 14 of their last 17 home games, and Tuesday’s contest kicked off a nine-game homestand.
The Cardinals may be thinking about moving into playoff position during that stretch. They are within one game of struggling Pittsburgh for the second NL wild card, with co-West leaders Los Angeles and San Francisco in between St. Louis and the Pirates.
Losers of seven of 10 overall, the Diamondbacks (58-58) have slipped out of that conversation.
They’re hoping Joe Saunders (6-8, 3.52) can turn things around. He has gone at least six innings in each of his last nine outings, yielding more than three earned runs just once in that stretch.
The left-hander retired 14 consecutive batters at one point during Thursday’s 6-3 win at Pittsburgh.
Saunders pitched five shutout innings last year in his only previous appearance in St. Louis, but he was clobbered by the Cardinals in Arizona on May 7. He lasted only 3 1-3 innings – the only time in 19 starts this season that he hasn’t finished five – allowing seven runs and nine hits, including homers by Rafael Furcal, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday.
Furcal and Beltran are a combined 9 for 21 with four homers lifetime against Saunders.
Holliday hit a two-run homer Tuesday, giving him nine home runs and 22 RBIs in his last 24 games. Jon Jay also went deep and singled, and his 2-for-4 showing actually lowered his average over his last eight games to .531 (17 for 32).