Any questions about whether right-hander Adam Wainwright is back can pretty much be scrapped.
Wainwright, who missed all of last season following elbow surgery, rendered the Houston Astros helpless on Tuesday to score his fifth straight victory. Throwing his second shutout of the season, Wainwright held Houston to five hits, tied a career high with 12 strikeouts and allowed only one walk as the St. Louis Cardinals cruised to a 7-0 win in the first game of a three-game series.
"Outstanding," said catcher Yadier Molina. "That's the only word I can about it. Outstanding."
Manager Mike Matheny said, "I don't know what more you could ask from him. There were some times he was challenging with his stuff and there were other times he was throwing pitches you weren't necessarily thinking about.
"He's been pretty impressive here for a while. And I know he likes to take the lead with the staff and say, 'Hey, this is how we're going to do it,' and hope everybody else follows along.
"He thrives on those opportunities to lead by example and do something special."
Wainwright, 12-1 with a 1.58 earned run average against the Astros in his career, didn't allow the Astros to have more than one baserunner in any inning until the ninth, when Houston had two of its five hits. Wainwright has won his last six decisions at Busch Stadium, and his complete game on Tuesday helped a strapped bullpen.
Even though the Cardinals had a day off on Monday, they had to pitch 11 innings out of the bullpen in a 19-inning game on Sunday.
"I tried to keep (the Astros) off the basepaths," said Wainwright, who had better command of his fastball than in his last start. "For the most part, I was a lot more efficient.
"Sometimes a young team like that is most dangerous when they're behind, so I told myself 'Don't let up. Don't let your focus go. Keep making pitches.' "