In what’s been a maddeningly inconsistent season for the St. Louis Cardinals, their pitching staff is putting together a fine run.
Two days after he was originally scheduled to start, Adam Wainwright takes the hill looking to lead the Cardinals to their second straight road victory over the last-place Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night.
The Cardinals (35-41) have been below .500 since they fell to 6-7 on April 17, but the reigning World Series champions have at least gotten strong pitching while alternating losses with wins over the last four games. St. Louis pitchers have yielded only nine total runs in the last four contests, including a 4-2 victory in Friday night’s series opener.
Starter Brad Thompson pitched six solid innings - allowing a two-run homer to Reds center fielder Josh Hamilton - before the bullpen held Cincinnati scoreless over the final three frames. Juan Encarnacion’s tiebreaking single highlighted a three-run rally in the eighth to lift the Cards.
“We just had a lot of things go right,” Thompson said. “That’s how Cardinals baseball is supposed to look.”
The Cardinals also got a lift from veteran reliever Troy Percival. Making his first major league appearance since he pitched for the Detroit Tigers in 2005, the 37-year-old right-hander and former All-Star closer pitched a perfect seventh inning to earn the win.
“Percival is one of those great pros that everybody expects,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. “It’s a dream come true. He gets three outs and gets the winning decision. That’s movie material.”
While Percival went two years between wins, Wainwright (6-6, 4.58 ERA) has gone two extra days between starts. The right-hander was originally scheduled to start Thursday’s rainout at New York. Then after penciling in Wainwright for Friday, La Russa opted to start Thompson instead.
Left-hander Mike Maroth - once slated for this contest - will now pitch Sunday’s series finale.
Wainwright held Philadelphia to two runs and seven hits in an 8-3 win last Saturday, going at least six innings for the sixth straight outing.
The right-hander is 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA in six career games against the Reds, including a 5-1 defeat on June 7 when he gave up four runs and eight hits — including three homers—over six innings. Cincinnati right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. is 3-for-4 with a homer during his career versus Wainwright, and third baseman Edwin Encarnacion is 4-for-5 with a homer and a double.
Friday’s defeat dropped the Reds to a season-worst 20 games below .500, and left them with a major league-worst 30-50 record. They are on pace for their first 100-loss season since 1982.
Kyle Lohse (3-10, 5.02) has accounted for one-fifth of Cincinnati’s defeats. The right-hander has dropped three straight starts - all to AL teams - including a 9-1 loss at Seattle last Saturday, when he yielded a season-high eight runs, six hits - three homers - and three walks in six innings.
In the outing prior to his losing streak, though, Lohse stifled the Cardinals by allowing one run over 8 1-3 innings of a 5-1 win at St. Louis. It was his first victory in four career starts versus the Cardinals, all of which have come on the road.