Because he's pitching Sunday night, Adam Wainwright likely won't play in the All-Star game. That start, though, gives the St. Louis Cardinals right-hander the chance to end the first half as the NL's only 13-game winner.
While seeking that victory and his first against the Chicago Cubs in nearly three years, Wainwright will also try to help St. Louis regain sole possession of the NL Central lead before the break.
The Cardinals (56-36) changed their pitching schedule to give Wainwright two starts before the end of the first half, but starting Sunday will at least limit him in Tuesday's Midsummer Classic at New York's Citi Field. The latest collective bargaining agreement gives pitchers who start on Sunday the option of throwing in the All-Star game but no more than one inning.
Wainwright (12-5, 2.30 ERA) has said he would ideally like to give his spot to Cardinals closer Edward Mujica . Should he choose to opt out, however, the choice of his replacement would fall to San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy .
"I don't think you can make a (final) decision on it until we see what happens (Sunday)," Wainwright told the team's website. "I mean, if the game were to get rained out and I backed out for no reason that would be silly. But if I pitch (Sunday), then I would probably forgo the chance to pitch in the All-Star game to allow for some rest."
First, Wainwright will try to break a tie with Washington's Jordan Zimmermann for the NL wins lead. He matched Zimmermann's victory total by allowing one run over seven innings and striking out nine in a 9-5 victory against Houston on Tuesday.
Since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011, Wainwright is 0-2 with a 5.90 ERA in five starts against the Cubs (42-50). He gave up four runs over seven innings in his only matchup this season, a 4-2 loss June 18.
Wainwright's last win against Chicago was on Sept. 24, 2010, and Travis Wood (6-6, 2.69) will try to help prevent him from earning another.
Wood, the Cubs' lone All-Star, faces the same decision as Wainwright.
"It's going to be a (side session day) anyway. I've got no problem with him pitching one inning, or 20 pitches. He goes all out on his side days anyways," manager Dale Sveum told the team's website.
In his final start of the first half, Wood will try to build on his first win since May 30. The left-hander gave up two runs over 6 2-3 innings in a 7-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday. He got six runs of support after receiving a combined nine in his previous six outings.
Wood has split his two starts against the Cardinals this season. He gave up one run over 6 2-3 innings in a 2-1 victory at Wrigley Field on May 7, and allowed four runs in seven innings in a 5-2 road loss June 17.
St. Louis will try to hand him another defeat while attempting to move back in front of Pittsburgh in the NL Central.
The Cubs are trying to end the first half with a 12th win in 18 games.
Chicago also has a chance to win the four-game series over its archrivals after claiming a 6-4 victory Saturday. Alfonso Soriano hit his ninth homer in 15 games, and Luis Valbuena had a key two-run shot in the fourth inning.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|July 11, 2013||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hamstring|
|July 02, 2013||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Stiff neck/back|
|May 26, 2013||John Gast||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tightness|
|May 26, 2013||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder soreness|
|May 25, 2013||John Gast||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shoulder tightness|
|May 21, 2013||Fernando Salas||15-Day DL||Right shoulder irritation|
|July 08, 2013||Welington Castillo||Day-to-Day||Flu|
|June 30, 2013||Ryan Sweeney||60-Day DL||Fractured left rib|
|June 15, 2013||David DeJesus||15-Day DL||Right shoulder sprain|
|June 14, 2013||David DeJesus||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right shoulder|
|June 12, 2013||Zach Putnam||60-Day DL||Right elbow soreness|
|June 11, 2013||Zach Putnam||Day-to-Day||Left game - Undisclosed injury|
CHICAGO (AP) -- Put Yadier Molina down for four more hits. Four RBIs, too. Add another clutch hit to Allen Craig 's total.
The majors' last game before the All-Star break sure had a familiar feel for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Molina hit a three-run homer in St. Louis' four-run ninth inning, and the Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 10-6 on Sunday night.
"We never give up," Molina said. "Whatever happens in the game or the inning before we're going to come after you."
Craig lined a tiebreaking RBI single into left field before Molina drove an 0-2 pitch from Kevin Gregg (2-2) over the wall in left for his seventh homer. Pete Kozma added three hits and two RBIs as St. Louis finished with a season-high 21 hits.
Chicago went up 4-3 on Darwin Barney 's three-run homer off Adam Wainwright in the sixth, and pinch hitter Cody Ransom had a tying two-run double in the eighth. But the Cubs' bullpen was unable to hold off the NL's highest-scoring team.
"Obviously we lost, but I mean we showed a lot of fight," Barney said. "We showed maybe what kind of character we have in those kind of games."
The Cardinals won for the seventh time in nine games to salvage a split of the four-game series. Edward Mujica (2-1) had his second blown save opportunity in 28 chances, but managed to get the win on the same day he was chosen to replace Wainwright on the NL All-Star team.
Despite injuries to key pitchers Chris Carpenter , Jaime Garcia and Jason Motte , St. Louis heads to the All-Star break with baseball's best record at 57-36. It leads the NL Central by one game over surprising Pittsburgh, which lost 4-2 to the New York Mets earlier in the day.
"I can't express how proud I am the way these guys play the game," manager Mike Matheny said. "It was a very fitting way to end before the break."
A big reason for St. Louis' success is the play of Craig and Molina, who are both headed to New York for Tuesday night's game at Citi Field. Craig is batting .489 (44 for 90) with runners in scoring position and leads the team with 74 RBIs. Molina leads the NL with a .341 batting average while playing his usual strong defense behind the plate.
Wainwright, who allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings, said he thinks Molina is baseball's best all-around player.
"What can you say?" Wainwright said. "He gets the big hits when he needs to and he calls great games."
Barney also had a run-scoring single for the Cubs, who went 6-4 on a 10-game stretch in Chicago that included a makeup game at the crosstown White Sox last Monday. The four RBIs for Barney matched a career high set in a 14-4 victory against Pittsburgh on July 30, 2012.
After a slow start, the Cubs (42-51) are a respectable 24-21 in their last 45 games. It's good enough for a four-game improvement compared to last year at this point, when the North Siders were 38-55 on their way to their first 100-loss season since 1966.
"It's a half that could have gone a lot different, but I think a lot of guys have progressed, kind of taken strides in the right way," said first baseman Anthony Rizzo , who committed a mental gaffe in the eighth when he cut off a ball that might have got a runner at the plate.
Travis Wood , who will represent the Cubs at the All-Star festivities, allowed three runs and a season-high 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings. It matched the shortest outing of the year for the consistent lefty, who pitched at least six innings in 17 of his first 18 starts.
Molina was out of the starting lineup for St. Louis' 6-4 loss on Saturday night and began the night in a 1-for-19 rut covering his previous seven games. But he singled in each of his first two at-bats, hit a leadoff double in the seventh and forced Bogusevic to make a leaping catch against the wall in center in the eighth.
"Tonight was me," Molina said. "Tonight I saw the ball pretty good and I made contact pretty solid."
NOTES: Cardinals OF Matt Holliday (right hamstring tightness) missed his third consecutive game. "We need to be real careful so we can continue to progress, make sure we are aiming for that first day after the break," Matheny said. ... OF Cole Gillespie joined the Cubs, and reliever Henry Rodriguez was designated for assignment to make room on the roster. Gillespie was claimed off waivers from San Francisco on Saturday. He had a pinch-hit single in the eighth. ... Cubs RHP Scott Baker allowed four runs and six hits in three innings in his first rehab start with Class A Kane County. Baker missed last season with Minnesota after undergoing elbow-ligament replacement surgery. "Today was a big hump, to pitch against hitters and getting in a real game and the whole atmosphere and everything," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap