Let’s hear it for Waino! Three RBI, the win and a positive step toward a better tomorrow

The Cardinals need Adam Wainwright to be better than he was in August. 

ST. LOUIS — It wasn’t vintage Adam Wainwright but it was a victorious Adam Wainwright on Tuesday night.

After posting a 5.17 ERA in an August funk, he’ll take it.

"Most of the time, I was much better than I have been," he said after a 6-4 victory over the Pirates that earned him his 16th win. "That’s what I’m going to take from this, definitely a good steppingstone. Much more quality location all night and my stuff was coming out on time. It’s a good building step."

It could have been more than a building step except for the three homers he allowed, which equaled his career high. Coming in, Wainwright had allowed only seven homers in 188 innings, the best rate in the NL. He said Russell Martin’s 418-foot homer came on a pitch that was outside but up and "he’s pretty good out over the plate." He admitted the 418-foot homer by Jordy Mercer and the 441-foot blast by Starling Marte came on offerings that were well less than his best.

"These good hitters make their living on balls on the middle of the plate," Wainwright said.

Wainwright pitched his best stretch after Mercer’s leadoff homer in the third, retiring 12 of the next 15 batters he faced. But after working his only three-up, three-down inning in the sixth, he walked Ike Davis to start the seventh and then missed on a 2-1 cutter that Marte blasted into Big Mac Land and ended his night at 100 pitches.

"We saw better breaking ball, some well-located pitches," manager Mike Matheny said. "He’s just off a hair sometimes on location that puts him in vulnerable counts at times, but from watching his base through his delivery, it looked more on time."

He was even more on in his first two at-bats, driving in three with a two-run single up the middle in the fourth and a second-inning groundout.

"There’s usually two or three games a year that you swing the outcome if you provide something offensively, and tonight was one of those games," he said. "The guys did a great job of getting on base in front of me."

The win was the Cardinals’ fourth straight and the fourth straight game they scored at least five runs, following a four-game losing streak when they totaled six runs. With the Brewers losing again, the Cardinals increased their newfound lead in the NL Central to two games. Wainwright was one in the clubhouse postgame to say the Cardinals might finally have hit their stride on offense.

"We kept telling everyone it’s going to happen eventually," he said. "Hopefully, this is the start of a whole great month followed by another great month. As pitchers, we love when they carry us. Hopefully, our offense is arrived now like we know it can be."

3 UP

— Bottom third of the order. Wainwright was able to match his career high for RBI (and double his season total) because the two batters in front of him, Daniel Descalso and Peter Bourjos, were on base so often. Descalso walked twice and, for the third time in the past five games, scored two runs. Bourjos also scored twice after he reached on a pair of singles. Bourjos is hitting .233 for the season but .321 since July 6.

— Randal Grichuk. Showing he’s here to do more than sit, the rookie outfielder had three hits and made a highlight-worthy play in right field with a diving catch on Marte’s line drive that ended the Pirates’ fourth. The multi-hit game was the first in his 26 big-league games. Grichuk also came close to hitting his second homer when a line drive hooked just foul in the first.

— Health. With Michael Wacha set to start on Thursday at Milwaukee, the Cardinals have returned to full strength — or at least as full as they could be. Shane Robinson and Jaime Garcia both are out for the season following shoulder surgery, but no one else is on the disabled list. Jason Motte and Mark Ellis both came off this week, following the return last Friday of Yadier Molina.

3 DOWN

— Matt Adams. Whether he’s wearing down or his right elbow is barking (the brace was on), Big City is in a big-time slump. This was never more obvious than in his first at-bat when he came up with the bases loaded after Jeff Locke had walked the previous two batters. The first pitch was up and in, not close to a strike, but Adams swung and popped meekly to the catcher to end the inning. He struck out in the fifth when he swung at a slider in the dirt and finished 0 for 4 for the third time in his past five games. His batting average in the past two weeks has dropped 20 points to .291.


— Bourjos’ slides. For the second time this season, the speedster had second base stolen only to come off the base and be tagged out. He slid feet first — he said he never has gone headfirst — and easily beat the tag but as he stood up, he came off the base and the tag was still applied. The out made for an interesting big-league debut for 6-foot-9 Pirates reliever John Holdzkom. Even though Bourjos reached — on a wild pitch on strike three — Holdzkom still struck out the side and faced only three batters.

— Jose Oquendo. Like numerous Cardinals, he was not happy with the strike zone of James Hoye. But Oquendo was the one who was ejected for letting Hoye know. After the Cardinals were retired in the third, Oquendo had some words for Hoye on the way back to the dugout. Oquendo then stopped a few feet from stepping inside the dugout and continued to express his displeasure. Hoye, who had already told the Cardinals’ dugout to cool it, did not take long to toss Oquendo. Chris Maloney, normally the first-base coach, took over for Oquendo and assistant batting coach David Bell moved to the first-base box.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.