Adam Wainwright takes aim at a National League-leading 15th victory of the season on Friday night when the St. Louis Cardinals play the second contest of a four-game series with the Atlanta Braves.

Wainwright enters this start 14-7 with a 2.66 earned run average in 26 starts, tying him with Washington's Jordan Zimmermann for the most wins in the league.

Wainwright has gone at least seven innings in six straight outings and in 21 of his 26 starts this year. He reached that mark on Sunday versus the Chicago Cubs, allowing a run and striking out 11 to win for the first time in five outings.

"I thought that was as good as he's been this season," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Wainwright. "He came out in the first and established all his pitches and had great life. His curveball was as sharp as we've seen it, and that made a difference."

The 31-year-old righty is 6-2 with a 3.09 ERA in 11 career meetings with the Braves, including eight starts, but lost in Atlanta back on July 26. Wainwright was charged with three earned runs and struck out eight over seven innings.

The Braves counter with Kris Medlen, who has won each of his last four starts but picked up a losing decision when pressed into emergency relief last Saturday versus Washington.

Medlen pitched the final three frames of a 15-inning loss, giving up the deciding run on a solo homer. He dropped to 10-11 with a 3.71 ERA in 25 games this year, all but one of those starts.

Medlen, a 27-year-old righty, faced the Cards five times in relief before making his first career start against them on July 28. He won a 5-2 decision to finish off a three-game sweep at home, giving up two runs over six innings.

The Braves had won five straight and eight of their previous nine versus the Cardinals prior to last night's 6-2 series-opening setback.

Matt Carpenter, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday stroked consecutive run- scoring doubles during the decisive fifth inning for St. Louis, while David Freese ended with two RBI to help the club win for the fifth time in six games.

That kept the Cardinals a game behind the Pittsburgh Pirates for first place in the NL Central.

St. Louis starter Joe Kelly held the Braves to two runs on seven hits and two walks over six frames to notch his fifth victory in his last seven starts.

"I didn't have any of my good stuff today," Kelly admitted. "I just went out there and just tried to battle the whole time. Nothing was easy."

Paul Maholm was activated off the 15-day disabled list prior to the game and made his first start in just over a month due to a bruised left wrist. The Atlanta southpaw allowed five runs -- four earned -- on five hits and three walks over 5 1/3 innings to absorb the loss.

"For his first time starting in over a month, I think he did a nice job," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Maholm. "I thought he kept us in the ball game and gave us an opportunity to win."

Justin Upton, who had missed the last two games with an upper back strain, stroked a two-run homer to account for Atlanta's offense. It was Upton's eighth homer of the month and came on the same day fellow outfielder Jason Heyward underwent surgery to repair a fractured jaw suffered on Wednesday when he was hit in the face by a pitch.

Heyward is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks of action.

Without the slugger, the Braves lost for only the fifth time in their past 25 games and still own a 14-game edge over Washington for first place in the NL East.