Adam Wainwright hasn't quite been the same pitcher he was before the All-Star break. But he will still carry a 15-inning scoreless streak against the Pirates with him to the PNC Park mound on Wednesday.
Wainwright will get the ball against Jeff Locke in a matinee rubber match between the Cardinals and Pirates. The Bucs took two of three from division-leading Milwaukee over the weekend, and will try to do the same against St. Louis, which is leading San Francisco by two games for the first National League Wild Card spot and trailing the Brewers by 1 1/2 games in the NL Central.
The Pirates, meanwhile, trail San Francisco by just one game for the all-important second Wild Card spot. They'll see a pitcher in Wainwright who has given up just two runs against them in 22 innings, and both of those runs came in his first start of 2014. In addition to the scoreless streak against the Bucs, Wainwright owns a 1.00 WHIP and a 0.82 ERA vs. Pittsburgh this season.
However, Wainwright will be making his last start of August, which has been his poorest month of 2014. The 6-foot-7 righty is 2-3 with a 5.29 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in August, all of the numbers far off from his season averages.
"There are little minor mechanical things that happen to every other player or pitcher, and it's just a matter of how you correct those," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of his ace. "I thought he did a nice job at the end of last game making those corrections and is feeling good about where he is."
Locke had an unconventional quality start in his last showing. The southpaw surrendered just two runs in six innings against the Brewers on Friday, but did so while giving up six walks and not recording a strikeout. As a pitching staff, the Pirates issued eight free passes against one strikeout that night en route to an 8-3 win.
"I don't know if I've ever before been on the winning side with those numbers," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said afterward. "Not a game plan to follow."
Pirates: Alvarez exits after making another start at first
Pedro Alvarez made his third consecutive start at first base Tuesday as he continues his transition to the right corner of the infield.
Alvarez went 0-for-3 with a strikeout before departing with a left foot sprain. He was in a walking boot after the game and will be reevaluated Wednesday.
Tuesday marked the fifth start at first base for Alvarez, a lifelong third baseman whom the Pirates transferred to first due to his throwing woes.
Cardinals: Molina expected to start rehab on Wednesday
While it won't be in a Cardinals uniform, six-time All-Star Yadier Molina is expected to return to the field on Wednesday. He'll do so for Double-A Springfield in a rehab assignment as he works back from a torn ligament in his right thumb.
The catcher worked out at the Springfield facilities on Tuesday. He has been sidelined since July 9, when he injured the thumb on a slide against the Pirates. The Cardinals could wait until Sept. 1 -- when Major League rosters expand -- to activate Molina, but they have not ruled out doing so sooner if he passes certain tests.
In his 11th season, Molina is hitting .284 with seven homers, 30 RBIs and a .751 OPS in 83 games.
• Andrew McCutchen, who exited Tuesday's game with left rib discomfort after colliding with the wall during a spectacular catch, is expected to be back in the Bucs' lineup for Wednesday's finale.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.