In Tuesday’s 8-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, Adam Wainwright gave up two earned runs on seven hits over 7 1/3 innings while striking out seven and walking one. In the month of July, he has a 2.70 ERA over 26 2/3 innings pitched while striking out 27 batters.

We all know that Wainwright got off to a shaky start this season after returning from Tommy John surgery. This was of course expected as he was out for the entire 2011 season, but as of late he has been tremendous. We keep talking about the fact that the Cardinals’ greatest strength is their starting pitching, and Wainwright has once again become a significant part of that. With a lineup which seems to fall and rise as a collective group and a very shaky bullpen (with the exception to Mitchell Boggs who has not given up an earned run in his last 16 innings pitched), it is imperative that Wainwright and the notable names on this staff keeps doing what it’s doing to ensure that the Cards are playing baseball in October.

This is not a knock on Joe Kelly, who in eight starts has thrown six quality outings, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t feel he will be able to keep it up as he is still so young and very inexperienced, particularly pitching in the heat of tight pennant race. And with Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia now out for the year, it is clear that guys like Wainwright, in addition to Lance Lynn and Kyle Lohse really need to step for these last couple months and continue to have the success they’ve had throughout the month of July.

The Cardinals (51-46) are six games behind the division-leading Cincinnati Reds and two games behind the Atlanta Braves for the second wild-card spot.