For Wainwright, just pitching means throwing 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball en route to a 4-1 win at Busch Stadium, his 10th victory of the year.
In his last start, the right-hander held the Marlins scoreless through four innings as the Cardinals built an 11-0 lead. But in the fifth, Wainwright's start unraveled as he tried to do too much and ended up allowing six runs in the fifth.
"Last game was a good lesson for me, I didn't need to do anything else besides what I was doing," Wainwright said. "I've proven when I'm out there just pitching, making pitches, executing pitches, things work out like they're supposed to work out. … I need to make sure I'm going hard at it, just stay the course, do the exact same thing until they make you prove that you got to do something different."
Against the Mets, he didn't have to change a thing, giving up five hits, including one home run, while striking out seven. Although he had to be pulled in the seventh with two runners on, he executed well throughout the day. He threw 87 pitches, 61 of which were strikes.
"I think today he got back to trusting. That's such an effective fastball when everything else is working and when he's putting it where he wants to," manager Mike Matheny said. "I thought he did a nice job establishing the breaking ball early, but didn't overuse it. Thought his cutter/slider was probably the best it's been all season. And then he didn't try to overdo his fastball."
Wainwright's pitches have shown improvement over his last three starts, and his 5.20 ERA does not reflect some of the sharp performances he has had this year. After a rough first month of the season, in which went 2-3 with a 6.12 ERA, he went 3-0 in five starts in May and seemed to be turning the corner with a 2.64 ERA. However, two disastrous starts in June, giving up nine earned runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Reds on June 6 and then again in 1 2/3 against the Orioles on June 17, were a wake-up call that things needed to change.
"After Baltimore, [I] just completely changed a lot of different things and just got into the idea that execution is the main thing of the game," Wainwright said. "Just going to make one pitch after another, after another, after another, and there's a couple of keys I've found that have always worked for me that I just needed to get back to, and here we are."
Outside of the one inning against the Marlins, he has given up just four earned runs in his four starts since the Baltimore game. During the current three-game winning streak, his command has been spot on. Wainwright has struck out 23 batters over the past three games after fanning 18 combined in his first five June starts.
His accuracy has helped the Cardinals, who have won or tied three straight series, with another potential series win on the line in Sunday's rubber match against New York. No other Cardinals starting pitcher has more than six wins this year.
"It's bottom line for us. We've got to win. He's on the mound, you just have to be excited about your chances," Matheny said. "You can take the stats and run with them a lot of different directions, but for us it is the bottom line. Our starters need to go out and give us a chance to win, and Adam's been doing that on a very consistent basis."
Alaina Getzenberg is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis.