ST. LOUIS — To the relief of the St. Louis Cardinals, Adam Wainwright and his right arm felt normal again Saturday.
After missing his last start with elbow tendinitis, Wainwright returned with a fury as he held Philadelphia to one run in eight innings in the Cardinals' 4-1 victory at Busch Stadium.
"It felt like a normal arm," Wainwright said. "The difference was I didn't have a throbbing arm every pitch. The (June 10) game in Tampa Bay, even though I had decent results, that didn't feel good at all. It hurt. We got all that calmed down. You say a lot of my games are the same; I felt the same today."
Wainwright improved to 10-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.08. He allowed six hits, walked none and struck out seven as the Cardinals (40-35) snapped a three-game losing streak.
"I take pride in ending streaks like that," Wainwright said. "But I'm not going any harder than I would have normally gone. If we had won 10 in a row, I would have gone just that hard. I'm glad I was able to stop the skid, but at the same time, that's how hard I go every time."
Wainwright outdueled Cole Hamels (2-4), who limited the Cardinals to one run through seven innings before coming undone in the eighth when St. Louis scored three times.
Hamels had thrown 24 2/3 scoreless innings until the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead in the second on Matt Adams' sacrifice fly. Philadelphia tied it at 1 in the third on Jimmy Rollins' sacrifice fly, but Wainwright retired 17 of the final 20 hitters he faced.
"Unbelievable," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Wainwright's gem. "This guy has just been so good. Taking a little break and coming back as sharp as he is, I don't know why I'm surprised, but to be as sharp as he is with a little time off, he looked like the Adam we've watched all season."
Wainwright's biggest concern was pitch execution. He struggled with his two-seam fastball, but reported no other difficulties.
"You never know sometimes how you're going to respond when you haven't thrown very much. You might be a little off with your command," he said. "I put some good time in the last few days to make sure I was getting back to normal. I threw a normal side and a normal flat-ground the day before. I was a little wayward early on (with) my fastball command. It got better as the game wore on."
Matt Holliday's double to left-center scored Matt Carpenter, who had walked, to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the eighth. Jhonny Peralta's fielder's choice and Adams' second sacrifice fly made it 4-1, and Trevor Rosenthal pitched the ninth for his 21st save.
Holliday has seven RBIs in his last eight games, and his 10 game-winning RBIs are tied for the most in the National League with Atlanta's Evan Gattis.
"At that point in the game, you're looking at having a chance to win if you can just scratch out one run," Holliday said of his eighth-inning at bat. "I got into a 3-2 count which, with (Hamels), doesn't guarantee you anything. He threw a changeup. Luckily, he left it up a little bit and I was able to hit it in the gap and score the run."
Hamels allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits in 7 1/3 innings. He walked five and struck out eight.
The Cardinals improved to 6-3 on the 10-game homestand, which concludes at 1:15 p.m. Sunday against the Phillies.
"Waino gave us exactly what we needed," Holliday said. "He gave us a great start, gave us a chance to get that win and (now we) have a chance to split the series tomorrow and end the homestand on a high note."
Matheny said Wainwright didn't try to lobby to remain in the game for the ninth. He had thrown 104 pitches.
Wainwright said he felt he had done enough, and the outcome was what mattered the most.
"We won the game," he said. "We needed to win a game. We faced a tough pitcher. That's why you stick around as long as you can in those games, to give your offense enough chances to score some runs."