After moving back into first place in the NL West and with Garland on the mound, the Padres will try to best Wainwright for a second time this season in the finale of a four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.
San Diego (83-65) snapped a three-game losing streak—and 11-game slide at Busch Stadium—with an 8-4 win Saturday, and lead the division by one-half game over San Francisco and one game over Colorado.
The Padres scored four runs in the ninth inning on Ryan Ludwick’s(notes) three-run homer and pinch-hitter Matt Stairs’(notes) solo shot. Ludwick, who was traded from the Cardinals on July 31, is hitting .244 since joining San Diego, but is 10 for 23 in the last six games.
“We needed the win,” he told the Padres’ official website. “To be able to come through for the team is nice. I guess it’s an extra, added bonus to do it against your former club.”
The Cardinals (76-71), meanwhile, have dropped eight of 12 to fall seven games behind NL Central-leading Cincinnati with 15 left to play. Albert Pujols(notes) went 0 for 3 with two walks and a strikeout. It was the third time in his last five games that the reigning two-time NL MVP was held hitless.
San Diego will try to earn a split of the series, but could have a tough time against Wainwright (18-11, 2.50 ERA), who is one win behind Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay(notes) for the NL lead, and third behind Florida’s Josh Johnson(notes) and Halladay for the NL’s lowest ERA.
What’s particularly impressive is Wainwright has maintained his spot among those elite pitchers despite losing five of his last six starts while posting a 4.73 ERA. He gave up five runs and a season-high 12 hits in eight innings of a 7-2 loss to Chicago on Tuesday.
“It’s tough to explain, really,” Wainwright said. “I didn’t make very many bad pitches. It’s a crazy game, man.”
The problems haven’t all been Wainwright’s fault. The Cardinals have scored four runs over the 32 innings pitched by him in the five losses.
The right-hander also didn’t receive much run support against San Diego on May 25. He gave up one run, four hits and struck out 12 over seven innings of a 1-0 loss. Wainwright was outdueled by Garland (14-11, 3.49), who allowed six hits and struck out seven in seven innings.
“As you got through the first couple of innings, you could sense that both pitchers felt they had to match each other,” Padres manager Bud Black said.
Garland snapped a three-game losing streak his last time out, yielding three runs and four hits in seven innings of a 7-6 win over Colorado on Tuesday. The right-hander has won his last three starts on the road and has a 2.05 ERA over the last four outings away from home.
Pujols is 4 for 11 with two home runs against Garland.