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HOU@STL: Wainwright strikes out nine over seven

It's been a week since Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright has pitched in a game, and he has enjoyed his time off.

Wainwright entered the All-Star break as the National League leader in innings pitched, so he decided not to throw in the All-Star Game on Tuesday and did very little throwing over the past week.

"I think that will benefit me more than any amount of bullpen sessions or throwing can do right now," Wainwright said.

The Cardinals decided to give Wainwright a few extra days off, and he will make his second-half debut when the Cardinals face the Padres on Sunday at Busch Stadium in the final contest of a three-game series after the teams split the first two.

Wainwright's innings haven't been too much of a concern because of how effective he has been with his pitch count, as he averages 14.1 pitches per inning.

The Cardinals are clinging to their two-game lead in the NL Central with still a lot of opportunities to play the Pirates (14 games) and Reds (10 games). Manager Mike Matheny said he met with his team recently to stress the importance of not looking ahead.

"Right now we're ready to play San Diego," said Matheny. "I think it's just real important for our players to convince themselves -- and it's not just a game -- but it sets us up for success to keep it simple. When you start thinking about what other teams are doing or series that are ahead, I believe that really goes in the opposite direction of what we're trying to do all year."

The Padres finally broke a 10-game road losing streak with a 5-3 win against the Cardinals on Saturday, but they are 5-19 in their last 24 games.

Three of those five wins have been when Eric Stults has been on the mound, as he will be on Sunday.

This will be Stults' first career appearance at Busch Stadium, and in many ways he has been the Padres best pitcher so far this season. He enters the game 8-7 with a 3.40 ERA, and Stults has an ERA of 2.80 since May 7.

Padres: Cabrera vs. Molina
This three-game series features an interesting matchup to keep an eye on, as the Padres boast one of the game's most prolific base stealers, Everth Cabrera, against the Cardinals' catcher, Yadier Molina, and his lights-out arm.

Cabrera leads the National League with 34 stolen bases, while Molina is arguably the best defensive catcher in baseball.

The Padres are second in the Majors with 76 stolen bases, but have been held by Molina thus far. Cabrera hasn't attempted a stolen base through the first two games of this series, although he hasn't had much of an opportunity.

Padres manager Bud Black credited the Cardinals pitchers and the job they do at holding baserunners, and he praised Molina's ability behind the plate.

"He's one of the best in the game," said Black. "He's got a cannon and he's accurate."

Cardinals: Holliday placed on DL
The Cardinals officially placed outfielder Matt Holliday on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday, to give his injured right hamstring enough time to heal.

Holliday hasn't played since July 11, when he suffered the injury running out a ground ball against the Cubs, so the move is retroactive to July 12, meaning he could return as early as next Saturday.

"I think that was the part where you say, risk-reward," Holliday said. "You don't want to lose the eight days I've already been out by trying to come back a day too early, or doing something to where now you're back to having to go on the DL for 15 [days]. Time wise, it really made sense."

Worth noting
• The Padres are currently 1-1 in the midst a stretch that will see them play 17 of 21 games against teams with a winning record.

• Chris Carpenter made his second Minor League rehab start on Saturday. He threw 74 pitches over 3 1/3 innings for Triple-A Memphis and allowed four earned runs on nine hits.

• Brock Peterson became the 10th Cardinals player to make his Major League debut this season, when he pinch-hit and drove in a run with a groundout on Saturday.

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