Wacha hopes to shut down Bucs

(SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Cardinals have had some issues providing Michael Wacha with run support this season.

They might not need a whole lot of offense Friday night with Wacha scheduled to pitch the opener of a three-game series with the rival Pittsburgh Pirates, a club he has dominated over his brief career.

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The 22-year-old Wacha has given up just a single run in his career versus the Pirates and none during the regular season. As a rookie last year, Wacha hurled two scoreless innings of relief in August before picking up a home win over the Pirates on Sept. 8 with seven innings of two-hit ball.

Wacha also picked up a 2-1 win over the Pirates in Game 4 of last season's National League Division Series, with the righty logging 7 1/3 no-hit innings before giving up a solo homer to Pedro Alvarez.

Wacha has pitched to a 2.55 earned run average in seven starts this season, but is just 2-3 on the year and winless in his past four starts. He is coming off a 3-0 loss at the Chicago Cubs on Saturday as he yielded two runs over six frames. Both runs allowed came on one swing as he was touched for a two-run homer in the sixth inning by the Cubs' Junior Lake.

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"It's just frustrating really. I was able to get out of a jam there but then served one up to him and gave up two runs," said Wacha. "You just can't afford that in that situation."

Frustrating also could be used to describe Francisco Liriano's season. A 16- game winner for the Pirates last season, the lefty will take the hill tonight winless through seven starts at 0-3 with a 4.54 ERA.

Liriano lasted just two innings versus the Cardinals on April 26 before exiting with the flu and did not make his next start until Saturday versus Toronto. The 30-year-old was tagged for five runs -- four earned -- on six hits and three walks over 3 2/3 frames of a no-decision.

Liriano is a solid 4-1 lifetime versus the Cardinals with a 1.85 ERA, but picked up that first setback on April 5 of this season. He was touched for four runs over six innings in the home loss.

The Cardinals and Pirates are both looking to get a run started and St. Louis is coming off a series win over the Atlanta Braves, taking Wednesday's rubber match of a three-game set by a 7-1 margin.

Adam Wainwright hurled eight innings of one-run ball and added a pair of hits and two runs scored to the offense.

"It's never easy pitching against a team like that," said Wainwright. "I had some big jams early on and it ended up being the key to our win today. We had good offense against a tough pitcher today."

Matt Holliday and Peter Bourjos added three hits each, with Holliday driving in three runs and Bourjos connecting on a solo homer as part of a two-RBI game.

St. Louis has won three of its last four to split the first six of a nine-game road trip.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, took the final two games of its three-game set with San Francisco. Gerrit Cole hurled eight solid innings in Wednesday's 4-3 victory, the Pirates' fourth win in six games.

"It's a confidence booster," Cole said. "We've been close a lot and to be able to see things click and come together for us, it's been nice."

Ike Davis had three hits and Travis Snider drove in two runs to pace the offense.

The Pirates and Cardinals have split six meetings this season, with Pittsburgh winning two of three at home from April 4-6.


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