The right-hander will get another chance Tuesday night when the Cardinals continue their lengthy stretch against NL Central foes in the opener a three-game series with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
Wainwright (0-3, 7.32 ERA) won a career-high 20 games in 2010 and 64 over a four-season stretch before needing to replace an elbow ligament in his throwing arm. The initial returns on his comeback weren’t good as Wainwright posted a 9.88 ERA through his first three starts.
He’s also received zero runs of support, though, an issue that kept the Cardinals (14-8) from taking advantage of his strong fourth outing last Tuesday in Chicago. Wainwright gave up one run, one walk and six hits over six innings while striking out a season-high seven in a 3-2, 10-inning loss.
“Each time out there have been little things that I’ve done better and better,” Wainwright said. “Tonight there were certainly things that I did like I expect to do, like I used to do, and like I’m going to continue to do them. There are still ways that I can get a lot better.”
Wainwright had a four-start win streak against the Pirates snapped during his most recent matchup Aug. 24, 2010. Pittsburgh (10-12) heads into this series having alternated losses and wins over its last 10 contests, beginning with a home series against St. Louis.
The Pirates, who lost two of three in that set, scored more than five runs for the first time this season in Monday’s 9-3 win at Atlanta. That was the longest streak since the 1972 Milwaukee Brewers went a major league-worst 31 games into the season without scoring at least six.
While the Pirates try to build on their best offensive effort, Charlie Morton (1-1, 2.65) hopes to produce another strong outing. The right-hander earned his first win Wednesday against Colorado by allowing one run over seven innings.
“He has been counter-punching good,” manager Clint Hurdle told the team’s website. “These guys know, based on video they see, what he’s been doing. So he has been running the four-seam cutter in, then backing it up with his breaking ball. And his breaking ball has been very effective.”
Morton gave up two runs and four hits over five innings during a 4-1 loss April 20, his third straight defeat against St. Louis. He’s 1-2 with a 7.13 ERA in four career starts at Busch Stadium, allowing 39 baserunners in 17 2-3 innings.
Morton let 11 Cardinals reach and gave up five runs over 4 1-3 innings in an 8-4 loss there Aug. 25.
Skip Schumaker had an RBI single in that game and has collected more hits off Morton than any major leaguer with 10 in 23 at-bats. Allen Craig is 6 for 9 against the right-hander and might be activated from the disabled list Tuesday to make his 2012 debut following offseason knee surgery.
The Cardinals have played all but one game against NL Central teams and will visit Houston this weekend before traveling to Arizona on Monday.