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Wainwright ready for challenge posed by Pirates

For Cards postseason veteran, execution critical in facing familiar opponent

ST. LOUIS -- Adam Wainwright had two of the worst games of his career against Cincinnati this season. But that didn't mean St. Louis' ace was rooting for Pittsburgh while watching Tuesday's National League Wild Card Game. He knows the Bucs' lineup is just as dangerous.

"I've learned in my years you never ask for anyone, because you've got to be careful what you ask for or you'll get a monster," Wainwright said. "Absolutely was I not intimidated by the Cincinnati Reds, just so you know that. But also know that either way, I was going to have a very tough opponent. I have a lot of respect for both teams."

Tale of the Tape: Game 1
A.J. Burnett
Adam Wainwright
2013 regular season
Overall: 30 GS, 10-11, 3.30 ERA, 67 BB, 209 SO Overall: 34 GS, 19-9, 2.94 ERA, 35 BB, 219 SO
Key stat: While posting a 2.37 ERA at home this season, Burnett had a 4.22 mark on the road. Key stat: Wainwright has won his last four decisions, posting a 1.80 ERA (seven earned runs in 35 innings) over that stretch.
At Busch Stadium
2013: 3 GS, 1-1, 8.10 ERA
Career: 4 GS, 1-2, 13.50 ERA
2013: 17 GS, 9-6, 2.53 ERA
Career: 128 G, 97 GS, 53-32, 2.67 ERA
Against this opponent
2013: 6 GS, 3-1, 3.67 ERA
Career: 17 GS, 8-6, 4.11 ERA
2013: 3 GS, 1-0, 3.00 ERA
Career: 22 G, 18 GS, 9-4, 4.81 ERA
Loves to face: Yadier Molina, 4-for-25
Hates to face: Matt Carpenter, 9-for-21, 2 2B, 2 3B
Loves to face: Marlon Byrd, 4-for-17, 7 K
Hates to face: Andrew McCutchen, 12-for-28, 4 2B, 3B, HR
Game breakdown
Why he'll win: Over his last three starts, Burnett has posted a 2.08 ERA (five earned runs in 21 2/3 innings). Why he'll win: In 13 career postseason appearances (four starts), Wainwright is 2-0 with a 2.48 ERA. In 32 2/3 innings, he struck out 42 and walked six.
Pitcher beware: Burnett has struggled in his postseason career, going 2-2 with a 5.08 ERA in seven starts. Pitcher beware: Wainwright has a 6.09 ERA (23 earned runs in 34 innings) in the first inning this season.
Bottom line: Burnett has to shake off his road struggles this season, particularly at Busch Stadium. He also has to minimize runners in scoring position, as the Cardinals batted .330 in that situation this season. Bottom line: Wainwright has to set the tone early. His ERA over the first three innings this season is 3.92. Over the final six innings of a game, it drops to 2.24.

Wainwright was roughed up by the Reds for 15 runs and 17 hits over eight innings in consecutive starts late in the season, but he rebounded to post a 1.80 ERA in his last five regular-season starts (35 innings).

"If you get caught up in that when you're going through those bad stretches, then they can compound, and you start doubting your ability," Wainwright said. "But what I was able to do is look at those two starts, especially the [Aug. 28] start, it was the worst start of my career. I was able to look at that individually and realize I'm much better than that and I had a bad day. I didn't need to do anything different. I just had a bad day."

Wainwright is the Cardinals' most experienced postseason pitcher. He tossed 9 2/3 scoreless innings of relief as a rookie when the Cards won the World Series in 2006, and he is 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA in four October starts -- including a 10-strikeout performance in Game 1 of last year's NL Division Series, during which he allowed just one run. Wainwright will look to continue that success and set the tone against a potent Pirates offense Thursday at Busch Stadium (4 p.m. CT on TBS).

"It's just a lineup that can beat you in a lot of different ways," Wainwright said. "There is tremendous speed out there, with [Starling] Marte and [Andrew] McCutchen, and guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark all the way down the order, as we saw [Tuesday]. It's a good opponent, with a very good starting pitcher on the mound on the other side [A.J. Burnett]. So I'm excited for the challenge."

In three starts versus Pittsburgh this season, Wainwright is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA. In his most recent start against the Bucs on Sept. 7, Wainwright allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings.

"There are no secrets on what either club is trying to do out there," Wainwright said. "We know each other's players very well. They probably know how I'm going to approach their at-bats, and we probably know how they're going to do ours. So the key to all of that is execution. You can have the greatest plan in the world, but if you don't execute it, it's garbage."

Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for

St. Louis Cardinals, Adam Wainwright