Every game against the Cubs is critical, so Adam Wainwright must be sharp tonight as he toes the rubber to face a struggling lineup.

Everyone knows that Adam Wainwright has not been at his best in 2016. The 34 year-old ace has had better outings on the mound at Busch Stadium, and he knows that. Throughout the young season, Waino’s age has shown through his lack of velocity and stamina later in his outings.

The struggles for Wainwright started very early, as he was hit hard by Pittsburgh on Opening Day. Then, he tried to rebound against a weak Braves lineup in Atlanta and failed, actually pitching even worse than he did against the Pirates. Another poor start against Cincinnati in Busch Stadium had Cardinals fans seriously worried about their ace. Through three starts, Wainwright had a whopping 8.27 ERA.

While Wainwright was struggling, the Cubs offense had an almost unparalleled April in terms of production. The Cubbies ranked in the top 10 in the MLB in runs scored, home runs, runs batted in, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. Fortunately for Mike Matheny and the Cardinals, the Cubs did not face Waino in the first series between the two clubs back in late April.

Cardinals fans knew that Wainwright was going to have to face the Cubs at some point, and in April it looked as if that was not going to be a pleasant meeting for the Redbirds. Fortunately, conditions on both sides have changed in the Cardinals’ advantage since the end of April.

Wainwright, besides a clunker of a start in Los Angeles about a week ago, has pitched much better in May. This improvement was highlighted by a great outing on May 18 vs. the Colorado Rockies. In that start, Wainwright pitched 6 and 2/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing only one walk and six hits while striking out five. Cardinals fans could sense a resurgence of sorts from their ace, and so could Waino himself. After the game, Wainwright said, “You can say I’m dangerous again.” (MLB.com article)

While Wainwright has become “dangerous” in his most recent start, the Cubs offense has become significantly less dangerous. In the last week, they lost outfielder Jason Heyward to a minor injury that will put him out for at least the first two games of this series. Also, their production has plummeted. In the last seven days, the Cubs rank 27th in runs scored, 27th in hits, 25th in total bases, and 28th in runs batted in.

Most shockingly, the Cubs have a .197 batting average, .283 on base percentage, and .343 slugging percentage in their last six games. The Cubs pitching staff has kept them in most games through this rough offensive stretch, as the Cubs are still only 4-6 in their last ten games despite the terrible offensive numbers.

The Cardinals must take advantage of the Cubs slumping offense in the next three games. Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, and Michael Wacha will all need to bring their best stuff to the mound. Hopefully this will take some pressure off the Cardinals offense, as scoring runs against the Cubs pitching staff is certainly not an easy task.

Photo captured by Jeff Curry- USA Today Sports