St. Louis Cardinals

Wainwright did his part to earn another start for the Cardinals

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny discusses a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers and the improved performance of pitcher Adam Wainwright.
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St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny discusses a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers and the improved performance of pitcher Adam Wainwright.

Adam Wainwright was back in whack Wednesday.

As such, he'll be making his next assigned start Monday in Chicago when the Cardinals face the Cubs for the first time this season.

Because make no mistake, that assignment was in jeopardy. At least it should have been.

It had taken Wainwright 89 pitches to get through 3 2/3 innings in his disastrous season debut against the Diamondbacks last week. He surrendered four hits, walked four more and later confessed it was because his "body was all out of whack."

Wainwright is 36 years old, after all, and in the final year of his contract. He's coming off the worst year of his career and hasn't been the same for the past three. Jack Flaherty, meanwhile, is still mowing them down in Memphis after having already impressed in a spot start for an ailing Waino last week in Milwaukee.

Another out-of-whack start might have been Wainwright's last, making Wednesday's businessman's special against the Brewers a referendum on his future.

Though he fell to 0-2 with the 3-2 loss, Wainwright did enough to help the Cardinals get a win. And he had no real doubt that he would.

"That's how I pitched all spring training," he said. "Last start was the anomaly, not this one. I expect to go out and carry us deep into games."

Wainwright pitched a full seven innings, striking out four and walking none. He gave up two home runs, including a 441-foot no-doubt blast by Hernan Perez in the second, and a third-inning shot to right that skipped through the webbing of Harrison Bader's outreached glove.

Shortstop Orlando Arcia set up the Brewers' third run when he reached on an infield single and later scored from third on a ground ball to Cardinals first baseman Jose Martinez, who ran down the batter to tag him out instead of throwing home.

Otherwise, Wainwright was able to keep the ball down in the strike zone, coaxing 11 ground ball outs, including a the double play that ended the fourth inning.

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St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Jeff Roberson AP

"I made a bad pitch to Hernan Perez," he said after the game. "That's the one I wanted back."

Another anemic performance by the offense was the bigger factor in the loss. The Cardinals got just five hits and left the tying and go-ahead runs on base with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

But Wainwright got himself back on track with the two things that derailed him in his debut. Most notably, he didn't show the dramatic loss of velocity that set off the alarms at Busch Stadium on opening night. The average speed of his fastball dropped steadily each inning from 91.78 mph in the first to 87.75 mph by the time he got the hook in the fourth.

"If I was being honest, probably that first start I was a little antsy, a little jumpy," Wainwright said. "In that first inning, I wanted to show everybody, you know, that I'm back. I ended up heaving the ball a little more than I wanted to instead of making pitches.

"I didn't need to do anything more than I had done all spring."

The return of Wainwright's velocity was, in fact, noted in Jupiter, where he surrendered just one earned run in 10.2 innings and had more strikeouts (10) than hits allowed (9).

More than anything, Waino was able to throw that fastball for strikes, which is the basis for everything else he does.

"Control the counts, control your fastball and work off of that, and you can do a lot of cool things," he said. "I was certainly able to keep going if they would have had me. That's the way you're supposed to pitch, that's the way I expect to pitch, that's the way I've been pitching."

And that's the way he needs to continue pitching to avoid further questions about future starts.

Now if only the Cardinals' offense can get itself back in whack ...

Todd Eschman is the sports editor of the Belleville News-Democrat. He can be reached at 618-239-2540 or teschman@bnd.com.
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