Although Adam Wainwright is in position to win a career best-tying fifth consecutive start, he's lost four in a row to the New York Mets.
He also figures to face stiff competition from counterpart Matt Harvey, who appears to be good to go following last week's injury scare.
Wainwright takes the mound opposite the unbeaten Harvey as the visiting St. Louis Cardinals conclude a three-game set with the Mets on Thursday, weather permitting.
Leading the majors with a 13.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio - more than twice as high as the next guy - Wainwright (9-3, 2.34 ERA) has struck out 28 and issued two free passes during a four-start winning streak since losing to the Mets last month. He turned in another superb effort Friday, giving up two runs and seven hits over seven innings during a 9-2 win at Cincinnati.
Wainwright won five consecutive starts Aug. 4-26.
"I think it's just another way of mixing things up and being the complete pitcher," Wainwright, who kept switching his mechanics, told MLB's official website. "As long as you're OK in your delivery and can mix speeds with your pitches, why not mix with your delivery? Give them a different look - one over the head, one not. I just think it's a different way to give different looks."
Wainwright could certainly afford to change things up versus New York (24-36). The right-hander has gone 1-4 over seven regular-season games - five starts - in the series while compiling a 7.29 ERA, by far his highest mark against any NL opponent. He gave up four runs in six innings during a 5-2 loss May 16.
Daniel Murphy and Omar Quintanilla are a combined 10 for 18 with four doubles and a triple against Wainwright and Lucas Duda is 2 for 5 with a homer.
After beating St. Louis (42-23) by a 5-1 score Wednesday thanks to homers from David Wright, Duda and Marlon Byrd, the Mets will try to back Harvey (5-0, 2.10) with a similar display. The emerging superstar has received an average of just 2.66 runs of support over his last nine starts, a stretch during which he's gone 1-0 with a 2.66 ERA.
Harvey scattered six hits and struck out six over seven innings of one-run ball in Saturday's 2-1, 20-inning loss to Miami. He came out to warm up in the eighth but was removed due to tightness in his lower back.
Harvey, though, received treatment immediately and is expected to be fine going forward.
"We can't risk this guy getting hurt," manager Terry Collins said. "It would be one of the worst decisions you can make to let this guy go out there, as competitive as he is, and pitch with a possible injury that could not only hurt his back even worse, but have him change his delivery where he could hurt his arm."
After checking out OK, the only thing that would prevent Harvey from pitching is the weather. With thunderstorms expected in the area, the Mets are preparing for their seventh rainout.
"It doesn't look good, I know that," Collins said. "I don't think anybody in baseball has gone through what we've gone through this year.
"We've had so many days off early, it's not like anybody's tired, but when it starts getting 90 degrees every day and it's July, it's going to take its toll to where you've really got to make sure guys are getting days off to keep their energy up, because it's going to wear them down."
Cardinals third baseman David Freese went 0 for 4 on Wednesday, ending his career-best 20-game hitting streak - the majors' longest this season.
The Associated Press News Service
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