The Pittsburgh Pirates, surprisingly, were the last team he struggled to slow down.
Wainwright tries to extend his quality start streak Sunday as the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pirates play the decisive finale of their three-game set at PNC Park.
Wainwright (4-1, 1.96 ERA) has been the majors’ most consistent pitcher since late June, going 15-5 in his last 25 starts with a 1.94 ERA - more than a quarter of a run lower than reigning two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum(notes).
He’s lasted at least seven innings in all but six of those outings, and kept his run of quality starts intact Tuesday in Philadelphia despite not getting a win. Wainwright allowed one run and four hits over eight innings as the Cardinals (19-12) lost 2-1 in 10 innings.
“I made a lot of good pitches,” Wainwright told the team’s official website. “(Our starters) expect to go out and have at least a quality start, keep our team in the game, put up zeroes and go as long as we can to give our team a chance to win.”
The last time the right-hander didn’t record a quality start came Sept. 4 in Pittsburgh, where he allowed six runs and nine hits over five innings. That was enough to earn him a victory, though, as Ryan Ludwick(notes) homered twice and Albert Pujols(notes) and Matt Holliday(notes) also went deep in St. Louis’ 14-7 win.
That wasn’t the first time the Pirates (14-16) have done some damage against Wainwright. He’s 5-2 in 14 games with 10 starts against Pittsburgh, but with a 5.26 ERA—his highest against any NL opponent.
McCutchen, who’s hitting .440 in his last 12 games, had two doubles Saturday night, but it was Pittsburgh’s pitching that led it to a 2-0 victory. Jeff Karstens(notes) and four relievers held St. Louis to a season low-tying four hits.
“We just couldn’t get anything going offensively,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “You have to give their starting pitcher and relievers a lot of credit. It just wasn’t a good day for our offense.”
Paul Maholm(notes) (2-2, 4.06) has been Pittsburgh’s most consistent starter, even though he’s yet to deliver a dominant performance. He gave up two runs over six innings Tuesday in a 3-2 win over the Cubs.
“As the starting staff, we need to challenge ourselves to go six, seven, eight innings and make sure (the bullpen is) fresh when they come in there,” Maholm told the Pirates’ official website.
The ERA by Pittsburgh’s rotation was 8.52 through 19 games, but it’s 3.07 over the last 11, and has received five consecutive quality starts since Maholm’s last turn.
The left-hander is 3-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 10 career starts against the Cardinals, and he’s especially enjoyed facing Holliday. The Cardinals’ left fielder, who pinch-hit Saturday because of a strained groin but could be in the lineup Sunday, is 1 for 14 against Maholm.
Pujols, on the other hand, loves facing him. The two-time reigning NL MVP is 15 for 25 with six walks versus Maholm.