Preview: After an extended rest, Wainwright is ready for Buccos

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ three-game NL Central lead over the St. Louis Cardinals can partially be attributed to their play against their division rival.

Now it’s the Cardinals who feel like they have something to prove against the upstart Pirates.

St. Louis has juggled its rotation so Adam Wainwright can start Tuesday night’s opener of this much-anticipated three-game series opposite Charlie Morton, who has lost five straight to the Cardinals.

Pittsburgh (70-47) heads to Busch Stadium with a 7-3 record against St. Louis (67-50), winning four of five at home July 29-Aug. 1 to take over the Central lead.

St. Louis was outscored 22-7 in the first four games of that set before salvaging a 13-0 victory in the finale to snap a season-high seven-game losing streak.

“I know our guys are looking forward to playing them again,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We’re anxious about it. There’s a little added excitement with them coming in town and something to prove. We’re a better team than we showed in Pittsburgh.”

Matheny mandated a day away from the park on Monday’s off day with his club a loser of 13 of 18.

“We’re locking the clubhouse doors just in case anybody has a stupid idea,” he said.

The Cardinals have dropped three straight starts by Wainwright (13-7, 2.66 ERA), who allowed four runs in seven innings and did not get a decision in a 5-4 loss at Pittsburgh on July 31. He’s 0-2 with a 4.29 ERA during that span, and will have three extra days of rest since pitching last Monday against the Dodgers.

The right-hander, second in the majors with 175 2/3 innings pitched, is 9-6 with a 2.93 ERA in 17 career starts with at least six days off.

“I’m always excited to take the ball,” Wainwright told the Cardinals’ official website. “That’s why we work hard in between starts.”

Wainwright’s 5.19 ERA against Pittsburgh is his second-highest against any NL club.

Numerous Pirates have good numbers against him. Russell Martin is 9 for 19, Andrew McCutchen is 9 for 23, Jose Tabata 6 for 13 and Neil Walker 5 for 13.

McCutchen has 14 hits in his last 27 at-bats and Walker is hitting .364 in his last 15 games for Pittsburgh, which was swept in a weekend three-game set at Colorado that came on the heels of a 9-2 homestand.

The Pirates also had Monday off and are eager to move on to St. Louis, where they took two of three April 26-28.

“We’re going to go in there, it’s going to be packed, it’s going to be exciting,” manager Clint Hurdle told the Pirates’ official website.

Morton (4-3, 3.88) is 0-5 with a 6.41 ERA in his last five starts against the Cardinals, surrendering five runs in six innings in the Aug. 1 defeat. He’s 1-3 with a 7.77 ERA in five outings at St Louis.

Pittsburgh has won all four of his other starts over the past five weeks as Morton has gone 3-0 with a 3.50 ERA. He beat Miami on Wednesday with seven strong innings in a 4-2 win.

Allen Craig, hitting .464 with runners in scoring position, is 8 for 15 off the right-hander. Carlos Beltran is 5 for 12 and Matt Holliday 7 for 21.

Holliday is hitting .436 with 12 RBIs in his past 15 games, going 10 for 23 in the last series against Pittsburgh.

Beltran left Sunday’s 8-4 victory over the Cubs after fouling a ball off his right foot. X-rays were negative.

“Hopefully Tuesday I can be back,” he said.