(AP) — St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright has been at his best when pitching at home this season, but the Cardinals surely won’t be disappointed to have him on the mound when they kick off a key six-game road trip.
Wainwright looks to continue the Cardinals’ recent track record of success in Miami on Friday night against the reeling Florida Marlins, who hope to avoid their first five-game losing streak of 2010.
St. Louis (60-48) trails the first-place Reds by one-half game in the NL Central, a situation that should provide plenty of intrigue when the Cardinals begin a three-game series in Cincinnati on Monday.
First, the Cardinals will try for their eighth consecutive series victory at Florida, where they’re 16-6 since the start of 2003.
Wainwright (15-6, 2.19 ERA) won his only previous start in Miami on June 10, 2009, but hasn’t been as fortunate on the road this year. All of his losses have come away from home, and his 3.38 ERA on the road is more than two runs higher than his Busch Stadium mark.
In his last road start, he gave up six runs in five innings of an 8-2 loss to the Mets on July 27, the only time in his last seven outings overall that he allowed more than one run.
The right-hander bounced back Sunday against Pittsburgh, pitching seven innings in a 9-1 home win.
“Just got back to doing what I do, command all my pitches, change speeds, work in-and-out and let my defense do their work,” Wainwright said.
He’ll have a worthy adversary in Ricky Nolasco (12-7, 4.28), who has gone 7-1 with a 3.38 ERA in his last eight outings, striking out 64 in 56 innings over that span.
Nolasco limited San Diego to five hits in 8 1-3 innings of a 6-3 victory on Saturday, winning his third consecutive start.
“He was getting his breaking ball over for strikes. He was getting ahead of us,” San Diego’s Scott Hairston said. “His fastball had a little run to it. … He didn’t make too many mistakes.”
The right-hander, however, has never beaten the Cardinals, going 0-2 with a 5.92 ERA in five appearances – four starts. Matt Holliday is 7 for 11 with two homers against Nolasco, while Albert Pujols is 6 for 12 with three doubles and a homer.
Pujols had three hits, including his 27th homer, in an 8-4 win over Houston on Wednesday as St. Louis bounced back from an 18-4 blowout and avoided a three-game sweep.
“I’m feeling right now, the same way I’ve been feeling all year long,” Pujols said. “Right now, it’s important because every win counts. You don’t have that many games left.”
The Cardinals appear primed for the challenge of a close race, having averaged 4.9 runs per game while going 13-7 since the All-Star break. Pujols and Holliday are tied for the team lead with 14 RBIs in that stretch.
Florida (53-55) has struggled to find offense during its four-game losing streak, totaling 11 runs while matching its longest skid of the season.
The Marlins’ 5-4, 10-inning loss to Philadelphia on Thursday night was marred by a controversial call. Gaby Sanchez’s hard grounder in the bottom of the ninth would have plated the winning run, but it was called foul despite apparently bouncing over third base.
Manager Edwin Rodriguez called it “the worst call I’ve ever seen in my 30 years of professional baseball.”