ST. LOUIS — It’s fast becoming a theme to Adam Wainwright’s season.
No, not the recovery from the elbow surgery that kept him out of last season. That officially became a thing on the past with his May 22 shutout of the Padres.
It’s the results he’s getting on the field. Yes, Wainwright is consistently putting up good performances. No, he’s not getting wins.
“He deserved better,” Cards manager Mike Matheny said after Sunday’s long 5-3 loss to the Royals at Busch Stadium. “We’ve said that his last couple starts it seems like. He pitched good enough to win. He did a nice job for us.”
Wainwright allowed five hits and just one run in seven innings — less than half of the 15 innings that were played at Busch — and left with a 2-1 lead after back-to-back homers by Matt Holliday and Allen Craig. But a bunch of little things added up, and Billy Butler’s two-out, two-strike homer in the ninth off closer Jason Motte tied the game and cost Wainwright what would have been his sixth win of the season against seven losses.
“Wins are funny things, man,” Wainwright said. “Sometimes you win a game where you give up four runs, sometimes you lose a game giving up one or don’t get a decision when you give up one. That’s one of those things you have no control over unless you go out and hit a couple home runs yourself. All I can do as a pitcher is try to put up zeroes.”
This was one out of Column 3 — you don’t get a decision when you give up one run — and if the Cardinals’ offense has been erratic lately, going big some games and small in others, one of the few constants is that the offense has been small when Wainwright starts.
He was the guy on the mound when the Mets’ Johan Santana threw a no-hitter. In his next start, the Cards exploded — that being a relative term — for four runs in a 4-3 win over the Astros. The start after that, against the White Sox, the Cards scored just once. On Sunday, the number was two. That adds up to just seven runs scored by the Cardinals in Wainwright’s past four starts, making it tough to roll up wins.
If wins are funny, as Wainwright says and as Sabermetric types will argue when it comes time to vote for the Cy Young Award, he can measure progress by looking at how his ERA has come back to earth. Two starts into the season, he was at 11.42; after three, the number was 9.88. Sunday’s game brought him down to 4.46, just a tick off his season-best of 4.45 at the end of May.
His ERA “is coming back to where it’s respectable at least,” Wainwright said. “If I keep pitching the way I’ve been pitching, the way I feel like I’m going to pitch, things will work out. If I keep pitching like that, my team will get me a lot of wins. That kind of thing will come.
“I call it the perfect storm of bad luck/bad pitching early on in the season. I had no life on the ball and every ball that was in play was finding a hole. Now, I’ve got my life back and balls are finding gloves. Funny how that works. If you keep the ball out of the middle of the plate, you tend to find gloves.”
Wainwright got through Sunday without his best stuff — “I located well and the guys played good D behind me,” he said — and was an inch or so away from not allowing a run. The Royals got the one run off him in the second on three consecutive singles, but the first was a bloop just out of the reach of Daniel Descalso at second, the next a perfectly placed bunt and finally a solid single to left by Humberto Quintero to drive in the run.
“I probably left it a little too much in the zone for Quintero,” Wainwright said, “but other than that, I don’t think I’d take a pitch back.”
From there, Wainwright retired nine consecutive batters and didn’t give up a hit until the sixth. His eight strikeouts were one off his season high. His win total, though, remains at five.
Contact Timmermann at firstname.lastname@example.org or (314) 340-8190.