PITTSBURGH — St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright won’t be sad to see September arrive. A loss Wednesday to Pittsburgh was his second straight and fourth in August — a month he started by giving up seven runs to Milwaukee.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Wainwright’s subpar pitching is showing how the grind of a long season is taking its toll.
"You’re not going to be at your best all the time," Matheny said. "Right now, he’s not at his best, but he showed some good signs today."
Wainwright (15-9) allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings in the 3-1 defeat, with the big blow a two-run homer Ike Davis drove off a speaker above the seats in right-center field in the second inning.
"It would have been nice to get him some run support in this one," Matheny said. "He didn’t pitch great, but he pitched well enough to win."
Wainwright allowed four earned runs to Philadelphia on Aug. 22 and has gone winless in consecutive starts for just the second time this season.
"I’m just going to go out there and keep battling until I’m back to where I want to be," Wainwright said. "I know I’m close. But I’ve been pitching like this for too long and I need to get back to being the pitcher I know I can be."
Davis hit his 10th homer after Wainwright plunked Russell Martin on the left elbow with a pitch that Martin barely tried to avoid. Davis sent an 88-mph cutter clanking off a speaker raised on a pole, about 15 feet above the seats, a drive estimated at about 433 feet.
"I just got the barrel on it," Davis said. "It just carried out today."
Wainwright knew he made a mistake when he saw where his pitch was headed.
"I threw it right into Ike’s swing path, and he made a good swing on it," Wainwright said. "I wanted to get the pitch higher, but I got it down and in, and that’s a left-handed hitter’s honey spot right there."
Davis also had an inning-ending lineout that left the bases loaded in the fifth.
Pittsburgh took two of three from the defending NL champions and has won five of seven overall. St. Louis (71-61) leads the NL wild-card race, with San Francisco (69-62) trailing by 1 1/2 games and the Pirates (69-64) one game back of the Giants for the second wild-card berth.
Jeff Locke (6-3) allowed one run and six hits in 7 1/3 innings, giving up Matt Holliday’s third-inning homer. Locke also singled in the third and scored on Andrew McCutchen’s sacrifice fly, just the 11th hit for the pitcher in 98 career at-bats.
Mark Melancon pitched a one-hit ninth for his 24th save in 28 chances.
Locke escaped trouble in the third, stranding Daniel Descalso on third when Josh Harrison made a diving stop on Randal Grichuk’s two-out grounder down the line and threw to first.
Cardinals: C Yadier Molina was to begin an injury rehab assignment and catch five innings for Double-A Springfield on Wednesday and could return to the Cardinals on Friday. He has been on the 15-day DL since July 10 because of a torn ligament in his right thumb. … RHP Michael Wacha was to throw a batting practice session before Springfield’s game Wednesday. A right shoulder stress reaction landed Wacha on the DL on June 18.
Pirates: 3B Pedro Alvarez was out of the lineup, a day after he was removed from a game due to left foot discomfort. Alvarez left PNC Park with a walking boot on his foot after Tuesday’s game and was seen wearing the boot in the clubhouse Wednesday.
Cardinals: St. Louis opens a three-game series at home Friday against the Chicago Cubs. RHP Shelby Miller (8-9, 4.26 ERA) is slated to start against Chicago LHP Felix Doubront (2-4, 6.07 ERA).
Pirates: Pittsburgh is off Thursday before the Pirates continue their six-game homestand against the Cincinnati Reds. RHP Edinson Volquez (11-7, 3.56 ERA) starts the opener against his former team and RHP Mike Leake (10-11, 3.51 ERA).
Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen was in the lineup, a day after he was removed from a game because of discomfort in the same area of his ribs that caused him to go on the 15-day DL earlier this month. McCutchen finished 1 for 3 with a RBI. "We’re always going to be a better team with him in the lineup," Hurdle said.