Following a disappointing 2007 season, the St. Louis Cardinals own the second-best record in the NL. The only problem is they’re still looking up in the NL Central.
The surging Cardinals look to win their fifth straight series when they wrap up a four-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday at Busch Stadium.
St. Louis (34-24) finished with 78 wins last season - its fewest since going 75-86 in 1999.
The Cardinals have gotten off to a stellar first two months of this season, however. They defeated the Pirates 7-4 on Sunday to win their 34th game - a mark they didn’t reach last year until June 26.
St. Louis has won 10 of 14, and is victorious in its last four series since dropping two of three to Pittsburgh May 13-15. The Cardinals have not won five straight series since winning six in a row May 5-24, 2006.
Despite all its success, St. Louis still trails the first-place Chicago Cubs by 2 1/2 games in the Central.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa gives the ball to Adam Wainwright (5-2, 2.86 ERA) in the series finale hoping he can continue his recent dominance.
Wainwright has yielded just two runs and eight hits in 15 innings to win his last two starts.
On Wednesday, the right-hander gave up one run, three hits, one walk and matched a career high with eight strikeouts in eight innings of a 6-1 victory over Houston.
“He’s got one of the best sliders in the league,” St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina told the team’s official Web site. “He’s got a big curveball, one of the best curveballs in the league. He’s got a great sinker - he’s got everything. He’s one of the best pitchers in the league, I can tell you that.”
Wainwright has been at his best at Busch Stadium, going 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA in six starts there - all Cardinals victories.
He has also posted a 3.44 ERA in winning his last three starts against the Pirates.
Pittsburgh (26-30) counters with Tom Gorzelanny (4-5, 7.38), who looks to bounce back from the worst start of his career.
Gorzelanny has gotten off to an awful first two months of the season, allowing six or more runs in four of his 10 starts, but his last outing was especially brutal. In Wednesday’s 9-1 loss to Cincinnati, the left-hander was tagged for six runs, four hits, two walks and retired only two of the eight batters he faced.
“It’s embarrassing to do something like that,” Gorzelanny said. “I’ve never done this before. I don’t know what to say other than I can’t believe it.”
Gorzelanny has struggled the most on the road, going 1-4 with a 10.18 ERA in five starts. He has yielded 13 runs and 11 hits - including five home runs - in 6 2-3 innings over his last two road starts, but is 1-1 with a 1.98 ERA in two career starts at Busch Stadium.
Against the Cardinals on April 24, Gorzelanny allowed three runs, two hits and a career-high seven walks in five innings of a 6-2 loss. He is 1-3 with a 3.41 ERA in five career starts versus St. Louis.
Pirates right fielder Xavier Nady is batting .387 (12-for-31) with two home runs, four doubles and seven RBIs during an eight-game hitting streak, and is 6-for-13 (.462) in his career versus Wainwright.