After having to skip a start, Adam Wainwright will try to regain a share of the NL wins lead while helping the St. Louis Cardinals avoid a season-high skid.
Wainwright and the Cardinals face a daunting challenge with Saturday's matchup against Cole Hamels, who could record the best scoreless streak of his career and help the Philadelphia Phillies secure their longest win streak in nearly two years.
Wainwright (9-3, 2.15 ERA) missed his last turn in the rotation because of nagging tendinitis in his right elbow. The right-hander earned what was an NL-best ninth win in his most recent outing June 10, pitching seven innings in a 1-0 victory in Tampa Bay.
Cincinnati's Alfredo Simon earned his 10th win Wednesday, though he and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Zack Greinke, who also has nine wins, don't pitch until Monday.
Wainwright indicated Wednesday that his health was much better heading into his attempt to tie Simon atop that list.
"The feeling that I had last game was incredibly annoying, incredibly bothersome. I don't have that anymore, so I'm smiling," Wainwright told the team's website after a bullpen session. "I think now we take steps to make sure we maintain things and do a little more work in the training room for the next couple of weeks probably to make sure it doesn't come back."
The Cardinals won on the day he was originally supposed to start as part of a five-game winning streak, but they've since lost three in a row after a 5-1 defeat to the visiting Phillies on Friday. Jimmy Rollins hit a tiebreaking double in the fifth inning while extending his hit streak to 14 games, his longest since his MVP season in 2007.
St. Louis (39-35) will next try to avoid its first four-game skid overall - and at home - since Aug. 7-10.
The Phillies (34-38), meanwhile, will seek to improve to 6-0 on their road trip and record their first six-game win streak since a seven-game run Sept. 5-12, 2012.
"Everybody is feeding off one another and it's clicking," pitcher A.J. Burnett said. "We're having fun."
Hamels (2-3, 2.78) carries a scoreless streak of 23 2-3 innings into this start and is on the verge of surpassing his career-high 25-inning run from 2010. He's also close to passing the longest in the majors this season, 26-inning streaks from Miami's Henderson Alvarez and Texas' Martin Perez.
Despite his recent efforts, Hamels has gotten one win from his last six outings. He's lasted at least seven innings in eight straight.
The Phillies have won each of his past three starts, but he's received a combined one run of support in his last two while not receiving decisions.
Hamels also hasn't gotten much help from his teammates in his last eight matchups with St. Louis, including Game 3 of the 2011 division series. The Phillies have provided him with a combined 11 runs in those games and the left-hander has gone 1-3 with a 2.94 ERA, earning the lone win in the playoffs.
Wainwright is 4-1 with a 2.50 ERA in eight career starts against the Phillies and beat them in his only matchup last season, a 4-3 win April 18. He gave up three runs in seven innings, as did Hamels, who struck out eight and didn't get a decision.
Rollins, batting .360 in his last six games against St. Louis, is 8 for 24 with four doubles lifetime against Wainwright.
The Associated Press News Service
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