Jake Odorizzi sputtered, then sizzled Tuesday.
Odorizzi, of Highland, allowed a leadoff home run to Matt Carpenter in the first but settled down and finished with eight strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings and collected his first career RBI as Tampa Bay defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 7-2 at Busch Stadium.
Odorizzi (6-8) outdueled an oddly out-of-sync Adam Wainwright (12-5), who couldn't survive the fifth. Wainwright surrendered six runs (four earned) on six hits in 4 2/3 innings after having defeated Odorizzi 1-0 on June 10 at Tropicana Field.
"Today was probably the single greatest baseball moment in my life," Odorizzi said of his first career start in St. Louis. "I didn't think I would have that many nerves; I definitely had a lot of nerves. I was nervous, I was excited, I was just about everything you could be.
"I was on Cloud 9 that first inning. It's not the way I wanted to start off, but I guess it's a good way to settle in and bring you back to reality really quickly."
It was Odorizzi's eighth consecutive start with three or fewer runs allowed. During that span, he is 4-2 with a 2.39 ERA.
"He's been pitching well for a while. You saw that tonight," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He's put together the stuff that he has in a better way."
Odorizzi's performance was witnessed by as many as 500 supporters from Highland and surrounding communities. The paid attendance was 43,623.
The Cardinals (54-46) fell 1 1/2 games behind first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central. The Brewers defeated Cincinnati 4-3.
"He just came out and pitched and he did a great job," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Odorizzi. "You could see by the swings that we were taking that he has some deception and some late life and (is) able to expand, especially up. He did a nice job of staying under control, especially in a situation like this. He was as sharp today, if not more so, than the last time we saw him."
Odorizzi struggled in the first when he permitted Carpenter's homer into the first row of the bleachers in right-center on a 3-1 pitch. That was followed by a walk to Kolten Wong.
But Odorizzi seemed to right himself after Jose Molina threw out Wong attempting to steal second. That defensive gem was followed by one even better, as center fielder Desmond Jennings ranged into right-center to pull down Matt Holliday's long drive.
Beginning with Jennings' catch, Odorizzi retired 15 of 18 hitters.
"I think the turning point of settling down is when Molina threw out Wong," Odorizzi said. "To get that first out out of the way changed my whole perspective. I was like, 'OK, now we go.' We played great defense."
"The throw-out on the steal was huge," he said. "And the ball in the gap, we were positioned properly and that's why we were able to catch it. That first inning, to prevent any more damage, that was very big for Jake and for us."
Meanwhile, the Rays' offense began to click against Wainwright.
Trailing 1-0, Tampa Bay got a leadoff double from James Loney in the second and, one out later, a single by Molina.
Odorizzi, batting eighth, laid down a well-executed squeeze that scored Loney to make it 1-1. It was Odorizzi's first plate appearance since his senior year in 2008 at Highland High School.
"How about the bunt he put down?" Maddon said. "Here's a guy who hasn't had a chance to really do that in a game since his senior year in high school, maybe, and all of a sudden he puts the bunt down under these circumstances. Beautifully done."
Against the odds, Odorizzi said.
"I think I was more shaky and nervous and excited after that than I was in the first inning walking out for the first pitch," he said. "That's saying something, because I was really nervous when I went out there in the first."
The Rays then put the hurt on Wainwright in the fifth, sending 10 men to the plate and scoring five times.
Kevin Kiermaier led off with a walk. After Jennings flied to center, Wainwright couldn't handle a comebacker by Ben Zobrist and was charged with an error as runners reached first and second.
Matt Joyce followed with an RBI double to left to score Kiermaier and make it 3-1. After Evan Longoria walked to load the bases, Wainwright walked Loney to force in a run and make it 4-1.
Yunel Escobar then dropped a ground-rule double inside the right-field line, scoring two more to make it 6-1.
"He had a rough inning more than anything else," Matheny said. "He couldn't stop the bleeding. We saw some uncharacteristic things that aren't typically going to happen to him. He's human; they're going to happen. I don't think we have a great explanation for what happened."
Wainwright called the inning a "train wreck."
"It's hard to explain when things like that happen," he said. "I know this game is incredibly frustrating at times and probably for the fans watching tonight wondering what I was doing out there. But every now and then, you just have a really crazy inning like that. My delivery just fell completely out of whack."
Holliday, who homered against Odorizzi in the Cardinals' 1-0 win on June 10 at Tropicana Field, homered again on a 3-2 pitch in the sixth to get St. Louis within 6-2. Matt Adams singled, and after Odorizzi struck out Jhonny Peralta for the third straight time, Allen Craig walked.
Jeff Believeau relieved Odorizzi and struck out pinch-hitter Peter Bourjos to avoid further damage.
Longoria's homer to left against Jason Motte in the ninth enabled the Rays to regain their five-run lead at 7-2. The RBI was No. 593 for Longoria, making him Tampa Bay's career leader. Carl Crawford had the previous mark of 592.
Maddon was ejected in the third inning for arguing balls and strikes with plate umpire Mark Ripperger. The controversy started when Zobrist was called out on a 3-2 pitch he believed was outside.
"It was a misunderstanding," Maddon said. "I first started yelling at the home-plate umpire. I did because I did not want their pitcher to get a wide strike zone tonight. And any time Zobrist argues, you must defend. That's one of the unwritten rules of the universe. I had to go out there to defend 'Zo.'
"Then it shifted from him, and their pitcher (Wainwright) starts yelling in the dugout. So I'm yelling at him and the umpire thinks I'm yelling at the umpire and he kicks me out. ... I was yelling at the umpire. I thought the zone was too wide for their pitcher, and then their pitcher yells at me. We don't necessarily take that."