As far as stoppers go, few have more experience than Adam Wainwright.
The longtime starter and the Cardinals' go-to fixer in 2020 regardless of the bind the pitching or team was in, Wainwright opens the series finale with Cleveland needing to provide innings for a spent bullpen, bring calm to a turbulent rotation, and halt a six-game losing streak. Oh, and if that's not enough, the Cardinals are trying to avoid a wasted home stand.
They have lost all five games of their return to Busch Stadium from the West Coast and must win Wednesday night or head to Wrigley Field with all the baggage of a 0-6 home stand clanking behind them.
Yadier Molina returns from a bruised knee to join Wainwright and reunite with this generation's longest paired pitcher-catcher partnership.
At issue for the Cardinals has been pitching.
And also pitching.
The Cardinals mustered a single run against Cleveland starter Shane Bieber on Tuesday and squandered a seven-run rally in one inning against Cincinnati on Sunday. Their offense has been inconsistent or isolated, and its ineffectiveness at times has been highlighted by the crux of the Cardinals' concerns at this point in the season: Their severely reduced pitching depth.
A year ago, Wainwright started against Cleveland with the Cardinals tumbling into that game on a four-game losing streak. Wainwright pitched a nine-inning complete game on his birthday with nine strikeouts to steady to the Cardinals and get them through an afternoon when they did not have a reliever available.
Wainwright had walked around the clubhouse and told his colleagues from the 'pen that they could count on a day off. He had it.
The Cardinals have lost three of his past four starts, but most recently he still carried the game through seven innings. In five of his 11 starts this season, Wainwright has pitched at least seven innings. That has been essential for the relievers who have been able to reset in those games. The ripple effect of three planned starters on the injured list and short outings by other starters has asked the bullpen to plug the gaps, and that's stretched their arms too.
The work done Tuesday by Seth Elledge, Daniel Ponce de Leon, and Jake Woodford kept the Cardinals' late-inning options available for Wednesday, and with an off day Thursday there can be an aggressive use of the bullpen.
The preference would be that Wainwright not leave much for it to handle.
Here is the lineup that will back him:
1. Tommy Edman, 2B
2. Dylan Carlson, CF
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Nolan Arenado, 3B
5. Tyler O'Neill, LF
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Matt Carpenter, 2B
8. Edmundo Sosa, SS
9. Adam Wainwright, P
Cleveland, which hosts the Cardinals for a two-game series at their ballpark later this season to conclude the home-and-home interleague swap, will send this lineup against Wainwright:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Amed Rosario, SS
3. Jose Rondon, 3B
4. Eddie Rosario, LF
5. Harold Ramirez, RF
6. Josh Naylor, 1B
7. Austin Hedges, C
8. Bradley Zimmer, CF
9. Jean Carlos Mejia, RHP
Check back here for more coverage from Busch Stadium from StlToday.com and the Post-Dispatch. Rick Hummel, Hall of Fame baseball writer, is at the keyboard for the game story.