Wainwright hopes for another strong effort as the Cardinals try to avoid an eighth straight loss to the Milwaukee Brewers that would push them further behind their division rivals in the NL wild-card race in the conclusion of their season series Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.
In his first start in 2 1/2 months, Wainwright (7-3, 3.04 ERA) allowed one run and five hits on 72 pitches in six innings of an 18-3 win over Atlanta on Friday.
“It was more than we should have expected, as far as command,” manager Tony La Russa said. “It’s hard to believe he could have been that sharp with that much time missed.”
The right-hander also had three hits with an RBI and has six hits over his last three starts.
“It wasn’t fantastic, but it’s something I can build on for sure, and I’m glad to be back out here, which is the main thing,” said Wainwright, who is 2-2 with a 3.58 ERA in five career starts versus Milwaukee, including 1-1 with a 3.92 ERA in three outings this season.
Though he had an easy time last week, things should be much tougher against Ryan Braun and Milwaukee (77-55), which pounded the Cardinals 12-0 on Tuesday to win its fifth straight contest overall and increase its wild-card lead to 4 1/2 games over St. Louis and the New York Mets.
“They’re in better shape they we are, but I’ve also said that this series in August isn’t going to determine who plays in October,” said La Russa, whose team is 4-10 against Milwaukee in 2008. “But we need the series more than they do.”
Braun continued to hurt St. Louis, recording three hits including his 33rd homer Tuesday, while Prince Fielder added three hits with two RBIs for the Brewers, who have won six in a row at Busch Stadium heading into the finale of this two-game set.
“I think playing in this environment, this atmosphere, against these guys and the Cubs, we enjoy these games,” said Braun of the Brewers, who are five games back of NL Central-leading Chicago. “It’s what you play the game for.”
Braun is hitting .491 (28-for-57) with seven home runs and 13 RBIs against the Cardinals this season and is 5-for-15 lifetime with two homers against Wainwright.
After a strong performance from Ben Sheets on Tuesday, the Brewers turn to Manny Parra (10-6, 4.10) as he tries to build off his first victory since July 20. Parra allowed two runs and six hits in five innings of a 5-2 victory over Houston last Wednesday, though he wasn’t happy with his performance.
“If I can go out there and have nothing and get away with five innings and the bullpen does what they do and we get a win,” Parra said, “it really doesn’t matter.”
The left-hander has a 4.50 ERA but has not factored in any of his four career starts versus St. Louis, including three in 2008.
Albert Pujols went 0-for-3 on Tuesday to snap his eight-game hitting streak. In contention for the NL batting title, Pujols is batting .356 on the season and .514 (18-for-35) with four homers and 12 RBIs over his last nine games.
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