Recent 20-game winner Adam Wainwright makes his fourth attempt at a first win since September 2010 tonight when the St. Louis Cardinals meet the Chicago Cubs in the middle test of a three-game series at Wrigley Field.
The 29-year-old Georgia native won 19 games in 2009 and 20 in 2010 for the Cardinals, finishing third and second in National League Cy Young Award voting, respectively.
He was diagnosed with a right elbow injury in the spring of 2011 and ultimately had to undergo ligament replacement surgery, which cost him the entire season.
Wainwright returned to the mound on April 7 and gave up three runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings of a 6-0 loss at Milwaukee. He's dropped decisions in two subsequent starts against Chicago and Cincinnati, combining to give up 14 hits and 12 runs in eight innings.
The loss to the Cubs was his fifth in 11 career decisions across 24 appearances against them, during which he's thrown 102 innings, struck out 97 batters and allowed 113 hits with a 4.68 earned run average.
He's opposed by former Notre Dame football player Jeff Samardzija, who'll aim for a second defeat of the Cardinals in 11 days.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Indiana native was touched for 10 hits and five runs in five innings against St. Louis on April 13, but escaped with a 9-5 decision that improved him to 3-2 lifetime against the Cardinals in 14 games.
Samardzija has pitched once since that win and wound up dropping his first verdict of 2012, allowing five runs on eight hits while retiring just 11 batters in a 5-3 loss at Miami.
Overall, in 17 1/3 innings of work this month, he's given up 22 hits and 13 runs while walking six batters and striking out 16.
Opponents are hitting .310 against him - 62 points higher than his career mark.
On Monday, Joe Mather delivered a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Cubs to a 3-2 win.
Jason Motte (1-1) struck out Alfonso Soriano swinging to begin the inning, but pinch-hitter Bryan LaHair fouled off six pitches after working a full count. Motte's 12th pitch of the at-bat was ball four and the right-hander then walked Geovany Soto on four consecutive pitches.
Both runners moved into scoring position on pinch-hitter Steve Clevenger's 3-1 grounder before Mather won the game with a ground ball to center field.
The Cardinals took two of three from the Cubs in St. Louis in mid-April and have won 11 of the past 17 meetings overall.