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Rounding Third: Should the Cards be worried about Wainwright?

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Updated: 8/29 8:50 am

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Something isn't right with St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright.

Mechanically he looks fine. His velocity has been relatively the same all season. But anyone who has seen him throw lately can identify that something seems askew.

After earning a National League All-Star start by going 12-4 with a 1.83 ERA, Wainwright has pitched to 4.68 ERA in eight starts since. The Cardinals have won only three of those games.

Wainwright closed out a miserable month of August on Wednesday with a loss in Pittsburgh. The right-hander wasn't exactly awful in the setback to the Pirates, but wasn't exactly the lights out ace he had been in the first half of the season either.

After giving up three runs in the first three innings, he blanked the Pirates over his final three frames to give his teammates a chance to win. Still, he needed 103 pitches to get through six innings.

"The guy is a warrior," manager Mike Matheny said. "He is just an absolute example of how you're supposed to continue to go through this. It's too bad that we couldn't have gotten a little more run support."

In all, he was just 2-4 in the month and pitched to a 5.17 ERA in six starts. To further put it into perspective, he had a 1.92 ERA entering August.

"It has been a grind, and I'll just continue to go out there and battle my tail off until things click back into place," said Wainwright, who lost four games in a month for the first time in his career. "It's been a while, and I'm ready to move on. As ugly as it is, and whatever it may look like, I'm still holding us in the game and I know that we're close. This month is over for me. I'm ready to move onto September and build off the few good pitches I did throw."

Not one to make excuses, Wainwright did reveal that he is dealing with a dead arm. It's certainly not uncommon for a pitcher, especially one who turns 33 on Saturday, that has thrown 464 2/3 innings since the start of last season.

Including the postseason no pitcher in baseball has thrown more innings than Wainwright since he returned from Tommy John surgery in 2012.

And we are not exactly dealing with Tim Lincecum fall off the face of the Earth type of struggles here either. Yes, Wainwright has hit a rough patch, but he is still just one win off the major league lead and is pitching to a 2.59 ERA.

Even with his awful August, only seven pitchers in baseball have a lower ERA than Wainwright.

Let's put it this way, a lot of teams would like Adam Wainwright to be their biggest problem right now.

And despite Wainwright struggling, the Cards are still on top of the National League wild card standings and 1 1/2 games off the pace in the NL Central. In case you were wondering that's 1 1/2 games better than they were in the division when Waino's "troubles" began.

There might be something else that is bothering Wainwright.

Perhaps his rough stretch here is linked to the absence of all-world catcher Yadier Molina, who has been sidelined since July 9, almost exactly the time Wainwright's struggles began.

Well guess what? Molina should be back at some point this weekend and most definitely will be back behind the plate when Wainwright's turn comes up again next week.

There aren't many pitchers who don't love having Yadi behind the plate and Wainwright is no exception. Over the course of his nine-year career, Wainwright has a 2.83 ERA in the 1241 2/3 innings he has pitched with Molina behind the plate, and a 4.03 ERA in the 261 innings he has thrown to anyone else.

Problem solved, right? I guess we will find out next week.

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