St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier...

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina talk during the second inning of Game 1 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 3, 2014 in Los Angeles. Credit: Getty Images / Stephen Dunn

This is what things have come down to for the Cardinals, who entered Wednesday night's Game 4 of the National League Championship Series trailing the Giants 2-1.

Observers watched Adam Wainwright's bullpen session on Monday with eagle eyes, in search of signs that his right elbow won't produce any more troublesome "pipe shots,'' his term for pitches over the heart of the plate.

They did the same with catcher Yadier Molina, whose strained left oblique has limited him to warming up relief pitchers in the bullpen.

For the Cardinals to stem the tide, they'll need better from Wainwright, who starts Thursday night in Game 5. They also could use a speedy recovery from Molina, the best field general in the game.

Manager Mike Matheny offered a lukewarm progress report on Molina.

Matheny said his injured star is "still continuing to feel good as he goes out and plays catch, and throwing, receiving, doing the things he needs to behind the plate are all fine.''

But the pain in Molina's side -- which he has compared to the jamming of a knife -- remains too intense to entertain using him as a hitter.

One day after his replacement, A.J. Pierzynski, went 0-for-4, Matheny said Molina took just enough swings "to realize it wasn't worth pushing forward.''

Said Matheny: "He tried taking a few swings and it didn't feel great as expected.''

Pierzynski again was in the starting lineup Wednesday night, with Molina's status just as uncertain as it was when he came out of Game 2 with the injury.

Molina remains on the postseason roster, although that's partly because if he were taken off, he'd be ineligible for the World Series should the Cardinals advance.

The Cardinals might have a better chance of stomaching Molina's loss if they get the real Wainwright instead of the bizarro version that has been knocked around this October.

He entered the playoffs with a 2.53 ERA in 18 postseason appearances. But in his two playoff starts this season, the three-time All-Star has been knocked around by the Dodgers and Giants, going 0-1 with an 8.00 ERA and allowing a .405 average.

"I have not been very proud of my starts this year in the postseason so far,'' Wainwright said. "I also know that I was doing my very best. There was no point in time where I wasn't as prepared as I've ever been for a start, and my arm just didn't respond like I wanted it to. But I'm very confident going forward.''

Wainwright has copped to being bothered by a balky right elbow. But even at less than full capacity, he believes that sharpening his pitching mechanics should bring better results.

"When your arm doesn't feel the best, you need everything else to be locked in and your delivery to be sharp,'' Wainwright said. "My delivery was not sharp. My arm did not feel great the last few times out.''

Wainwright spent his bullpen session on Monday making what Matheny called "minor alterations'' to his delivery.

"Now, my arm feels better and my delivery should be much sharper going forward,'' he said. "So, it should be a much more polished pitcher you see on the mound.''

More MLB news