Adam Wainwright is a contender for the NL Cy Young Award, but he’s surely more concerned with increasing the St. Louis Cardinals’ lead atop the NL Central.
Wainwright looks to become the NL’s first 16-game winner Wednesday night when the surging Cardinals go for their first home sweep of the Cincinnati Reds in almost five years.
Tied with Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann for the most wins in the NL, Wainwright (15-7, 2.58 ERA) is also third in the league with 182 strikeouts and his ERA is baseball’s fourth-best.
The right-hander has certainly pitched like one of baseball’s best while winning his last two starts, allowing two runs with 20 strikeouts in 16 innings. He notched his major league-leading fifth complete game of the season Friday, tossing a six-hitter on a season-high 128 pitches in a 3-1 win over Atlanta.
“He’s our horse,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Those are the kind of statements your ace loves to make. That was his game.”
He’s split two starts against the Reds this year despite giving up two runs in seven innings each time. Cincinnati has won four of its last six matchups with Wainwright, including three straight at St. Louis.
The Cardinals (78-54) have won four in a row at home against the Reds and are in position to sweep a series from them at Busch Stadium for the first time since Sept. 26-28, 2008.
St. Louis, 1 1/2 games ahead of Pittsburgh and 4 1/2 in front of Cincinnati for the NL Central lead, has won nine of 11 following Tuesday’s 6-1 victory.
Matt Holliday has three hits — one homer — and four RBIs through the first two games of the series. He’s driven in a run in seven straight games, batting .346 in that span with three homers and four doubles.
Holliday has hit .393 with 10 RBIs in the past eight meetings with Cincinnati, and he’s 8 for 19 in the last two years versus Homer Bailey, the Reds’ scheduled starter.
Cincinnati (74-59) has a five-game lead on Arizona for the NL’s second wild-card spot, but manager Dusty Baker isn’t pleased his team has dropped three in a row.
“A loss is a loss, you’ve just got to play better baseball,” he said. “There are a few things we’ve still got to learn about playing winning baseball.”
Running the bases may be one thing after Zack Cozart didn’t see Jay Bruce being held up at third Tuesday, resulting in both of them on the base to end the fourth.
“It’s my (mistake), definitely,” Cozart said. “It was a bad play. You have to keep your head up. When I got to third I was surprised Jay was even there. That was a big part of the game.”
Bailey (8-10, 3.71) is 0-5 with a 6.90 ERA over seven career starts in St. Louis. He’s lost two visits this year, surrendering 11 runs and 18 hits — four homers — in 10 1/3 innings.
However, the right-hander has been pitching well away from home, going 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA over his past three road outings.
He won the most recent in Milwaukee on Aug. 18, yielding one run and three hits in eight innings of a 9-1 victory, but five days later he gave up three runs in six innings while not getting a decision in a 6-4 home loss to the Brewers.