Adam Wainwright. (USA TODAY Sports)
(Sports Network) - Staff ace Adam Wainwright can notch his fifth straight win and pitch the St. Louis Cardinals back into first place on Monday night, when they open a three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals, who dropped a 9-0 verdict on Sunday against Pittsburgh, now trail the Pirates by a half-game in the National League's Central Division, with the Reds a game-and-a-half back in third place.
St. Louis has been a wild card playoff participant in each of the last two seasons, while the Reds were Central champions in both 2010 and 2012.
Wainwright, who's 4-6 in 16 career meetings with Cincinnati, opened his 2013 season with a 6-2 loss at Arizona on April 1, but has since won each of four decisions while trimming his earned run average from 4.50 to 1.93.
He tossed a four-hit shutout against Milwaukee in an 8-0 win on April 13 at home, then nearly matched the gem with 8 1/3 scoreless innings of five-hit ball in a 2-0 downing of Washington on April 23.
In 37 1/3 combined innings across five starts, he's allowed just eight runs while walking one batter and striking out 37.
The Cardinals have outscored opponents, 30-12, in games he's pitched.
The Reds counter with righty Mat Latos, who finally picked up his first 2013 win in his most recent start.
The 25-year-old, who won 14 games in his first season with the Reds, wound up with four straight no-decisions between April 3 and April 19 while pitching six innings or more all four times and allowing three runs or less in three of the four.
He broke through with seven innings of scoreless four-hit ball for a 1-0 defeat of the Chicago Cubs on April 24 and aims to improve on a 2-4 career mark against the Cardinals.
In St. Louis on April 8, Latos allowed one earned run on four hits on six innings of the Reds' 13-4 win.
On Sunday in Washington, Tony Cingrani had 11 strikeouts over six shutout innings and the Reds avoided a four-game sweep by the Washington Nationals with a 5-2 win.
Cingrani (2-0) allowed just two hits and a walk in his outing, with Aroldis Chapman recording his fifth save with a scoreless ninth.
Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart drove in two runs apiece for Cincinnati, while Joey Votto had one RBI in the victory.
In St. Louis, Russell Martin hit two of Pittsburgh's four home runs to back a second straight solid outing from Jeff Locke, who held the Cardinals to three hits over seven scoreless innings.
Shelby Miller (3-2) had seven strikeouts but surrendered three runs on seven hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings for St. Louis, which lost its first series since dropping two of three to Arizona to begin the season.
St. Louis won two of three games in an early April series at Busch Stadium and won eight of 15 games overall last season. The Reds last won the season series in 2011.
The Sports Network