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Waino does it all early, but clutch hits elusive

Starter is sharp and adds RBI hit, but rest of Cards go 0-for-11 with RISP
@LangoschMLB
April 14, 2019

MONTERREY, Mexico -- Before the Cardinals had even arrived in Mexico, rumors of what would await them at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey had already spread through the clubhouse. The higher altitude -- the stadium sits about 2,000 feet above sea level -- made for thinner air. The turf would create

MONTERREY, Mexico -- Before the Cardinals had even arrived in Mexico, rumors of what would await them at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey had already spread through the clubhouse. The higher altitude -- the stadium sits about 2,000 feet above sea level -- made for thinner air. The turf would create harder bounces.

It was the sort of scouting report that led to one conclusion: “Should be fun to hit in,” Matt Carpenter reported a few hours before first pitch.

Well, it was for starter Adam Wainwright, who put the Cardinals ahead with a two-out RBI single in the second inning Saturday. But neither his offensive contributions nor his carrying a no-hit bid into the sixth could lift the Cardinals to a win, as squandered opportunities loomed large in a 5-2 loss to the Reds in the first game of their Mexico Series.

The loss, which came in front of an announced crowd of 16,886 in the franchise’s first game outside of the United States or Canada, snapped St. Louis’ five-game winning streak.

“Adam pitched to win the game,” catcher Yadier Molina said afterward. “He made some good pitches. He pitched a good game. He deserved the win.”

He simply didn’t get enough help. Excluding Wainwright’s run-scoring hit, St. Louis finished 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position against six Reds pitchers. That included three missed chances with a runner on third in the first. Another in the fifth. And one more in the sixth. The Cardinals twice brought the potential tying run -- first Paul Goldschmidt, then Paul DeJong -- to the plate in the ninth.

Nary another run was pushed across.

“Not characteristic of our club,” manager Mike Shildt said. “Left some money on the table down there, especially early on. [We] weren’t able to cash in. I think that was a big part of it.”

For a while, it seemed as if none of that would matter. The same scouting report that excited hitters served as a cautionary tale to Wainwright, who knew that keeping the ball on the ground would be key. He did so repeatedly through the first five innings, generating eight groundouts and three strikeouts.

“I’ve seen [that] a lot,” said former Cardinals bench coach and current Reds manager David Bell. “I usually enjoy it more than I did tonight.”

The first ball put in play in the sixth, however, caught plenty of air, and it ended up in the Cardinals’ bullpen. The game-tying home run from Jesse Winker was followed an inning later by a go-ahead one from Derek Dietrich.

“My strength is always to keep the ball on the ground. You can’t hit a grounder over the fence,” Wainwright said. “Everybody kept talking about there were going to be a lot of runs [scored in this series]. That’s a slap in my face. If I go out and make pitches, they’re not going to go out and score a lot of runs. I felt like I was going to win that game tonight 1-0.”

The result notwithstanding, Saturday did represent another positive stride for the right-hander, who is trying to shed any skepticism others have had about his fit in this year’s Cardinals rotation.

With this performance coming on the heels of a six-inning outing against the Padres, Wainwright has notched consecutive quality starts for the first time since June 23-28, 2017. He had only two total in 2018.

And after walking four in his season debut, Wainwright has surrendered two free passes in 12 innings since.

“It’s the Waino we expect -- a guy that is in command,” Shildt said. “Again, great body language, great pace to what he was doing. In attack mode. Able to throw multiple pitches for quality strikes. Disruption of balance, timing. Threw [inside] well. His off-speed was working well. That’s the kind of pitcher Adam is capable of being.”

“If I go out and make pitches like I did tonight the rest of the year,” Wainwright added, “I’ll take my chances.”

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.