St. Louis Cardinals

‘A mixed bag’: Wainwright laments loss before big home crowd

This was not what Adam Wainwright had in mind, not after waiting eight days to get back on the mound.

Hoping to start the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2015 home season on a positive note, Wainwright and mates instead had a halting Busch Stadium debut before 47,875 Monday afternoon.

The crowd was the biggest ever at Busch Stadium III, but Wainwright unhappily couldn’t send them home happy.

“The crowd was buzzing, the hot dogs and hamburgers smelled great, and everybody was doing a great job,” Wainwright lamented after allowing all five runs in a 5-4 Cardinals loss. “I would have loved to have gone out there and thrown nine innings of shutout ball, but the Brewers, they played a good game today.”

The Redbirds’ ace gave up eight hits in seven innings, with three of the runs earned. He walked one, struck out four, but trailed from the start.

“I would say I was kind of a mixed bag,” said Wainwright, who fell to 1-2 with a 5.01 ERA in four home-opening starts for St. Louis. “There were times I was definitely the sharpest I’ve been all year there, in the middle innings, and that’s what I take away from it.

“I started off a certain way, and I got better, better, better. Then at the end I got a little predictable, even. I wouldn’t say they were a lot of bad pitches, they were just predictable pitches in counts where they were they were guessing inside or outside.”

Quite a change from Wainwright’s 120th career win on Opening Night in Chicago’s Wrigley Field, when he pitched the Cardinals to a 3-0 victory over the Cubs. Thanks to off days and a rainout later that week in Chicago, he hadn’t pitched again until Monday.

It was a struggle from the start: The Brewers scored an unearned run in the first, tacked on single runs in the second and sixth, and scored two more (one of those runs was unearned, too) in the seventh.

Oddly enough, Wainwright may have been a bigger help to the Cardinals in the loss Monday than he was in the win eight days earlier. With most of the Cardinal bullpen worn out from a weekend series in Cincinnati, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he needed Wainwright to pitch deep into the game Monday.

Which he did, throwing 102 pitches and making it through the seventh.

"We were hurting. We were hurting today,” Matheny said. “You count all the times that they (the relievers) were up, too. All of them had thrown the last three days, except (Matt) Belisle. We were in a rough spot. ...

“So yeah, we had to have Waino go deep for us today. His stuff still looked good when he got up there close to 100 pitches. Would we have done something different with a full pen? Probably. But we didn't have the guys. We didn't have enough guys hardly to get through. It was patching it together."

If Wainwright was pitching on fumes by the end, his defenders had a hand – literally and figuratively – in that.

Kolten Wong had two errors, one that led to the first-inning run, another that featured prominently in the two-run seventh.

Not that Wainwright was pointing the finger at anyone but himself.

“Sometimes the defense picks the pitcher up, and sometimes the pitcher picks the defense up,” said Wainwright, who was regretting key hits by Ryan Braun, Scotter Gennett and Adam Lind that led to the three Brewer runs in the sixth and seventh. “I could have very easily gotten out of those innings. The 1-2 pitch to Ryan Braun, he gets a basehit ... I made a pretty good pitch to Scooter Gennett, I don’t know how he hit that ball; he just made a good swing. ... Adam Lind made a good swing on a ball off the plate.

“You get those guys out and those errors don’t mean as much. You can pin the blame all over the place, but usually it stops with the pitcher.”