As the Pirates reach the end of a season-opening intradivision stretch that has been even rougher than anticipated, they will at least regain a key player who has found April particularly draining.
Catcher Russell Martin anticipates being back behind the plate Friday night, when the Bucs and Cardinals open a three-game series in St. Louis. This is the final segment of a stretch of 26 straight games against National League Central foes that has the Bucs already looking up at the standings.
Martin missed the final two games of a home series against the Reds with what manager Clint Hurdle vaguely described as "lower-body soreness. We're trying to do the best job we can to keep him as fresh as possible."
"Guarantee I'll be in there [Friday]," Martin said. "I've been trying to play through it, and had to ask myself, 'Is it worth it? Or better to take some time and get better?' Every game is important, but still, we thought it was the right thing to do to heal."
It will have made sense for Hurdle to just want to keep his catcher fresh for this three-game set. In his first season with the Bucs, Martin was a force at Busch Stadium; he hit .346, with four homers. Against St. Louis pitching, he drove in a total of 11 runs, homering six times overall. Two of those blasts were off Shelby Miller, who goes in Friday's series opener.
Those two blows have contributed to saddling Miller with an 0-5 career record against the Pirates; he hasn't lost more than once against any other team.
Miller will be opposed by Gerrit Cole, who has two of the three wins claimed through 23 games by Pirates starters.
Cole will be in familiar surroundings, if in an unfamiliar situation. He made two starts in Busch Stadium in last October's National League Division Series -- allowing three runs in 11 innings -- but has not yet worked a regular-season game there.
The ballpark has been a fortress for Miller. He has won 10 of 14 home decisions, and has quieted opponents to an average of .197.
Pirates: Offensive wake up or shake up?
After the Bucs scored a total of five runs in three consecutive losses to the Reds, Hurdle said changes could be soon forthcoming.
"Other people are involved in that decision-making process," said Hurdle, referring primarily to general manager Neal Huntington, "but I know we've got some guys down there [at Triple-A Indianapolis] we are interested in. We've also got some guys here who need to use the opportunity that's there … while it's there."
Cardinals: Wainwright gets go-ahead for Sunday start
St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright, who departed his last start in New York with a right knee tweak diagnosed as hyperextension, passed a side session and got the thumbs up to take his regular turn in Sunday's series finale.
Wainwright has an ongoing streak of 17 scoreless innings.
"When you look at the way I pitch, you barely do anything stiff-legged, so I'm going to be OK," said Wainwright, who still acknowledged a little discomfort, but only when the leg is fully extended.
• A lot of attention will be paid to the Cardinals' performance with men in scoring position, because they hit an other-worldly .330 in that situation last year. Currently, Cards batters are doing .238 work with runners in scoring position.
• The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen has reached base 13 times in his last 18 plate appearances, and continues to lead the NL with 20 walks.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.