With Waino on mound, Cards try to take series against Reds
CINCINNATI -- Will the real Adam Wainwright please stand up?
Following an atypical start to the season, the St. Louis Cardinals' ace has appeared more like himself in his past four starts, going 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA.
"He's been good, very good," said manager Mike Matheny. "He's right where we were figuring he would get to at this point."
Wainwright looks to continue that positive trend in Thursday's series finale against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
It's been a long road back for Wainwright, who missed 142 games last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
He returned in late September and made three relief appearances in the final week of the season. Wainwright also pitched out of the bullpen in the National League Division Series against the Cubs.
The start of this season was difficult for Wainwright, who went 1-3 with a 7.16 ERA in April. But he's produced four straight quality starts since.
"The fastball execution has been very sharp here lately," Matheny said. "Good movement on the cutter sinker, and that makes the curveball better."
He has struggled against Cincinnati in his career, going 8-10 in 24 career games, including 18 starts with a 4.51 ERA, his second-highest against any opponent.
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In his last start against the Reds on April 16, Wainwright earned a no-decision in a 9-8 loss after allowing a season-high seven runs and 10 hits, including five doubles over 5 1/3 innings to snap a three-game win streak against Cincinnati.
On Thursday, Wainwright will be opposed by left-hander Brandon Finnegan, among the key components of the trade that sent Johnny Cueto to the Kansas City Royals last July. Finnegan is 2-3 with a 3.89 ERA but twice was the victim of a blown save.
Cincinnati (22-37) has lost 14 of the past 21 series played against the Cardinals, including seven of 10 at Great American Ball Park.
Thursday's game is the rubber match of this series after the Reds won the opener on Joey Votto's walk-off homer in the ninth Tuesday night and the Cardinals responded with a 12-7 win Wednesday in which they collected 15 hits. Four were homers, with two by Brandon Moss.
"It's always fun to watch different guys doing it," Matheny said. "Good at-bats all the way through. Guys grinding out at-bats, saw some hard-hit balls, taking walks."
Cincinnati also had 15 hits Thursday and got homers from shortstop Zack Cozart and catcher Tucker Barnhart.
"It's been fun watching the offense," said manager Bryan Price. "Joey (Votto) is taking better swings. Jay (Bruce) has been on a tear lately. (Adam) Duvall has done it all year, Billy (Hamilton) and Zack (Cozart), you can go up and down the lineup."
St. Louis (31-28) has won three of five meetings against Cincinnati this season.
Matheny expects to see vintage Wainwright on Thursday.
"It happens to everybody," Matheny said of his pitcher's early struggles. "It can jump up at any time where something just doesn't feel right. He just had trouble getting into a rhythm."