Having one of the best rotations in baseball spurred the St. Louis Cardinals to the NL pennant last year.
So far, the starters are back among the best, but an injury to Adam Wainwright caused a scare.A day after Wainwright suffered a hyperextended right knee, Michael Wacha will try to continue his impressive start to his first full season in the majors Wednesday night against the New York Mets.St. Louis (12-9) was second in the majors last year with a 3.42 ERA from its rotation. The Cardinals have picked up where they left off, as their 2.20 ERA in 2014 ranks only behind Atlanta's 1.50.They've been even better over the past nine games, compiling a 0.79 ERA while limiting opponents to a .175 batting average.Wainwright has been a big part of that, throwing 16 scoreless innings over his past two starts. His latest, though, was cut short following the seventh inning after he awkwardly tried to field a ball in Tuesday's 3-0 win over New York (10-10)."Just give me a couple of days and everything will be all right," Wainwright said. "At first you get a little scared and then as I started walking off the field, I knew I hadn't done anything wrong."Turning to Wacha (2-1, 1.73 ERA) could result in another strong effort on the mound. The right-hander, last year's NL championship series MVP, has allowed no more than one earned run in three of four starts this season with 25 strikeouts and only three walks.Wacha, though, could use some help from his teammates since he's been backed by eight total runs. He pitched well enough to win Friday, allowing three runs -- one earned -- with seven strikeouts in seven innings while the Cardinals committed three errors and had five hits in a 3-1 defeat at Washington."That's one of the better pitched games we've seen from him and he's thrown some really good ones in a very young career," manager Mike Matheny said. "Everything you could ask for."Wacha won his only career start against the Mets, allowing two runs in six innings of a 9-2 road victory June 11.Jon Jay and Matt Holliday are looking for another strong performance at the plate after they totaled five hits and three RBIs on Tuesday. That came a day after they went 0 for 7 in a 2-0 loss to open this four-game set.Despite his performance Tuesday, Jay is 3 for 19 in five games at Citi Field. However, he's 3 for 8 with a double against Jonathon Niese, Wednesday's scheduled starter.The Mets are 4-7 at home, thanks largely to a .184 average while scoring 2.9 runs per game.Curtis Granderson is a major culprit, batting .089 with 16 strikeouts at home this season and hitless in his last 22 at-bats overall."I wish I knew," Granderson said of his slump. "Because if I knew I would hopefully be able to figure it out."Niese (0-2, 2.84) will be looking for some help from the bats after yielding one run with seven strikeouts in six innings Friday while the offense was one-hit in a 6-0 loss to Atlanta.He's been backed by five total runs through three outings. However, the left-hander has gotten an average of 7.3 over five career starts against the Cardinals, and he's 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA.
Jonathon Niese lowered his career ERA against the Cardinals to 1.87 by allowing 1 run in 6 2/3 innings on Wednesday.
He has the lowest ERA against the Cardinals among active pitchers (minimum 5 starts), just ahead of Francisco Liriano's 1.95.
Michael Wacha: 9 strikeouts through 3 IP, tying his career high for a single game.
He's the first pitcher since Alex Cobb last May with 9 strikeouts through 3 IP and the 4th pitcher to do it in the last six seasons. None of the previous 3 finished with more than 13 strikeouts.