Wainwright looks to build on one of his best starts and lead the Cardinals to their sixth win in seven games Friday night against the visiting NL East leaders.
Matt Holliday continued his tear at Busch Stadium with two doubles as St. Louis won for only the second time in 10 regular-season meetings with a 6-2 victory in Thursday's series opener. He is batting .458 with four homers and 14 RBIs during a 14-game home hitting streak.
The Cardinals (74-53) remained one game behind Pittsburgh for the NL Central lead.
The Braves (77-50), meanwhile, have a comfortable 14-game bulge atop the East, but have totaled 11 runs and hit .237 while splitting their last four contests.
They might have a difficult time regrouping against Wainwright (14-7, 2.66 ERA), who ranks among the top 10 in the majors in ERA and strikeouts. After going 0-2 with a 4.18 ERA over his previous four starts, the All-Star right-hander fanned 11 while allowing one run and five hits over seven innings in beating the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Sunday."It's as good as he's been all season," manager Mike Matheny said. "He came out in the first and established all his pitches, had great life. His curveball was as sharp as we've seen it."
Wainwright, however, has had some trouble with the Braves lately. Since winning his first six starts against them, he's allowed nine runs and 16 hits over 11 1-3 innings while dropping his last two. He struck out eight and gave up four runs over seven innings in a 4-1 loss at Atlanta on July 26.
Jason Heyward homered off Wainwright in that meeting, but he's sidelined at least four weeks after suffering a broken jaw after being hit by a pitch Wednesday.
Teammate Justin Upton belted his 24th home run Thursday after missing three games with a strained upper back. He's hitting .375 with eight homers and 17 RBIs in his last 18 games.
Molina is expected to return to the lineup after Matheny rested him Thursday. He's 3 for 7 lifetime against Kris Medlen (10-11, 3.71), who will try to win his fifth straight start.
The right-hander made his first relief appearance Saturday, giving up a go-ahead home run to Adam LaRoche in the 15th inning of an 8-7 loss to Washington. He allowed one run and four hits over his three innings."It's a situation I've been in before," Medlen said. "Once you've experienced it before you want to get into the game and be part of it."
Medlen's winning streak as a starter began July 28, when he limited the Cardinals to two runs in six innings of a 5-2 victory.
This time, he faces a St. Louis team that has averaged 6.2 runs and batted .294 over its last five games.
Carlos Beltran is 9 for 18 with two home runs over his last four games, while Matt Carpenter - who has posted 30 of his NL-leading 49 multihit games at home - is 15 for 29 with six doubles over his last six there.
|August 22, 2013||Jason Heyward||15-Day DL||Fractured right jaw|
|August 20, 2013||Justin Upton||Day-to-Day||Strained upper back|
|August 15, 2013||Tyler Pastornicky||15-Day DL||Torn left ACL - out for season|
|August 13, 2013||Dan Uggla||15-Day DL||Eye surgery|
|August 06, 2013||Jason Heyward||Day-to-Day||Strained neck|
|July 29, 2013||Reed Johnson||15-Day DL||Left knee tendinitis|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|August 15, 2013||Tony Cruz||15-Day DL||Stress fracture, left forearm|
|August 11, 2013||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Right foot contusion|
|August 07, 2013||Shelby Miller||Day-to-Day||Right elbow contusion|
|July 31, 2013||Shane Robinson||15-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|July 31, 2013||Yadier Molina||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|July 31, 2013||Yadier Molina||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Adam Wainwright bolted out of the dugout before the bottom of the ninth inning. No way was the St. Louis Cardinals' ace coming out of this one.
Wainwright persuaded manager Mike Matheny , a former four-time Gold Glove catcher who handled the right-hander's warmup tosses before the ninth, to finish the game. Then he put the finishing touch on his NL-leading 15th win and fifth complete game for a 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.
"He's our horse," Matheny said. "Those are the kind of statements your ace loves to make. That was his game."
Wainwright joked that the manager was out there to "size me up a little bit," and Matheny said the pitches had plenty of heat.
"I like to do that, let them know that I'm not tired and ready to battle for those last three outs," said Wainwright who had a key sacrifice fly. "It's always good to do that and I feel like our team needed it."
Matt Holliday 's 432-foot home run off Kris Medlen (10-12) snapped a sixth-inning tie for St. Louis, which took the first two games of a four-game set against the NL East leaders.
Having already thrown 101 pitches, Wainwright was allowed to bat with the one out and the bases loaded in the seventh inning and hit a long sacrifice fly off Scott Downs for his third RBI of the season to make it 3-1. He then retired the side in order in the eighth and worked around a one-hit single to Chris Johnson in the ninth on a night when the Cardinals didn't have their closer.
Edward Mujica was unavailable for the second straight game with back and neck pain that he believed was caused by working two innings three straight times. He felt much better after visiting a chiropractor, played catch before the game and said he'd be ready Saturday.
"I feel good but I didn't want to force it today," Mujica said. "I'm much better than two days ago."
Medlen singled to lead off the sixth and scored on Freddie Freeman 's second hit of the game and retired 12 in a row at one point. But he allowed Holliday's 17th homer on a liner deep into the left field stands. He's lost his last two times out, including a relief appearance in a 15-inning game, and wasn't pleased about getting taken out after 78 pitches.
"I thought I was cruising pretty good," Medlen said. "I hadn't had to battle yet but I wasn't given the opportunity, so I guess I'm voicing the fact that I didn't appreciate that."
The Cardinals lost three in a row at Atlanta to start a seven-game losing streak in late July that knocked them out of the Central lead and entered the night a game behind Pittsburgh. Wainwright (15-7) took one of the losses in that series, but the Brunswick, Ga., native is 7-2 against the Braves.
Wainwright allowed a run on six hits with no walks and nine strikeouts, passing injured teammate Chris Carpenter for third on the franchise career list and putting him just six behind Dizzy Dean for second, and he has 16 career complete games. He's worked seven or more innings seven straight starts and retired 10 in a row at one point.
Yadier Molina had three hits with a pair of doubles to raise his NL-leading average to .337, five points ahead of the Johnson, who had a pair of singles.
Molina doubled and Jon Jay singled to open the seventh and chase Medlen. Downs got a brief reprieve earlier in the inning when a wild pitch ricocheted back to catcher Brian McCann .
The Braves' Justin Upton was ejected in the sixth for arguing with home plate umpire Paul Nauert after a groundout. He believed he'd been tossed because he'd cursed himself leaving the box and "heard something I didn't say."
"To be honest, if I can't get frustrated with myself and say what I want to myself, then it's really sad," Upton said. "I have no clue what he heard and it's just sad."
NOTES: Braves SS Andrelton Simmons made an outstanding sliding catch on Kolten Wong 's foul popup in the second. ... B.J. Upton snapped an 0-for-25 slump with a single in the second. ... Wainwright tied his career best for complete games in a season, also throwing five in 2010. He threw a season-high 128 pitches, second most in his career. ... Molina is batting .419 (13 for 31) with seven doubles in seven games since coming off the 15-day disabled list from a knee injury. The Cardinals are 6-1 in that stretch. ... Freeman is 12 for 27 (.444) during a six-game hitting streak.