If Adam Wainwright is to bounce back from one of his worst outings of the season, he must avoid having another one at Wrigley Field.
Trying again to become the majors' first 13-game winner, the St. Louis Cardinals right-hander looks to avoid losing consecutive starts for the first time this season in Sunday's decisive series finale against the Chicago Cubs.
Wainwright (12-5, 2.02 ERA) allowed six runs over his previous 52 2-3 innings prior to yielding six - four earned - in 4 2-3 innings of a 7-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
"(It) was unacceptable," the NL's ERA leader said following his second-shortest start of the season. "I'll be better next time. I'll get back to doing what I do best."
Wainwright never made it out of a fifth inning during which he was charged with five runs, committed an error, walked three and hit a batter.
"We saw some uncharacteristic things, things that aren't typically going to happen to him," manager Mike Matheny said. "He normally gets himself out of those things. He's human, they're going to happen."
Wainwright is 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA in three starts versus Chicago in 2014, and the lone loss came at Wrigley on May 2 as he gave up six runs and 10 hits in five innings of a 6-5 defeat. He's since gone 5-1 with a 1.01 ERA in seven road starts.
Chicago's Luis Valbuena, Nate Schierholtz, Welington Castillo and Ryan Sweeney are a combined 15 for 28 with eight doubles versus Wainwright this season. All-Star Anthony Rizzo is 3 for 8 with a homer against him in 2014.
Sweeney has two home runs and five RBIs thus far in this three-game set for the Cubs (42-60), who with Saturday's 6-3 defeat have dropped 14 of 18.
Rizzo went 0 for 4 with one RBI after batting .351 during a 10-game hitting streak.
Matt Adams had four RBIs and A.J. Pierzynski added three hits in his debut for the Cardinals (55-48), who snapped a season-high four-game skid.
A former South Sider with the White Sox, Pierzynski was signed Saturday to help the Cardinals while Yadier Molina recovers from a thumb injury. Pierzynski was released this month by Boston, where he struggled to fit in and hit .254 with four homers and 31 RBIs in 72 games.
He's 7 for 12 against the Cubs this season.
"He came in the clubhouse, real easy to get along with - just giddy to be a part of the team," Saturday's starter Shelby Miller told MLB's official website. "We're happy to have him."
Adams continues to play a big role in St. Louis' success. The Cardinals are 23-3 when he has an RBI, and he had none during the four-game losing streak before breaking out Saturday.
"If you look at when we started to gain some traction in our division, it's when Matt started to go," Matheny said. "Not to put the pressure on him, but he was the guy at the time and he's continued to do that, to step up big for us."
The Cardinals will get their first look at Kyle Hendricks (1-0, 2.77), who gave up five hits in seven innings of a 6-0 win over San Diego on Tuesday in his second career start.
"I just got up here and I'm trying to do what I can to help the team at this point," the right-hander said.