Wainwright: Cards in rut, but it feels like 2011
Pitcher believes club can turn it around and chase a World Series
PHILADELPHIA -- It had been more than a half-decade since Adam Wainwright had a performance like the one he turned in on Tuesday against the Phillies -- but the result felt like more of the same for the Cardinals.
The veteran right-hander racked up 10 strikeouts, marking the first time he's reached double digits since May 25, 2014. Unfortunately for the Cards, Wainwright's whiffs weren't enough to keep them from falling below .500 (26-27) in an eventual 4-3 loss on a rainy night at Citizens Bank Park.
Despite the 10 strikeouts -- and being staked to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first -- Wainwright was done in by a pair of two-run hits, including a two-run homer by Cesar Hernandez in the fourth. Along with the 10 strikeouts, Wainwright allowed four runs on eight hits, while walking none over six innings.
"I had good stuff," Wainwright said. "Sharp breaking ball for the first time in a few starts. That’s the best my breaking ball has been all year actually."
The outing was Wainwright's 10th career double-digit strikeout performance, and it was just his third with at least 10 strikeouts and zero walks. The difference this time around was that he also allowed the four runs, twice as many as he had allowed in any of those previous 10 outings.
And that’s exactly how Wainwright's outing seemed to epitomize the 2019 Cardinals -- just when it seems like the club is about to hit its stride, one swing halts the momentum.
On Sunday, the Cards let a 3-0 lead slip away in the ninth inning against the Braves en route to a 4-3 loss. They jumped right back out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning on Tuesday, courtesy of a solo home run by Paul Goldschmidt and a two-run shot by Marcell Ozuna, only to watch that advantage once again evaporate and produce an identical result.
"You’re up 3-0 with one out in the game … and we weren’t able to scratch another run with 26 outs to go," manager Mike Shildt said. "We need to figure out a way to tack on."
That's been the problem all month for the Cardinals, who fell to a National League-worst 7-17 in May. This is the same club that sat atop the NL standings at the end of April with a 19-10 record.
"Anybody who follows baseball close knows the more of a deep rut you’re in -- the deeper you get into that rut -- the closer you are to getting super hot," Wainwright said. "I feel like it’s coming. We’re so close on so many of these games. Eventually we’re going to start winning these games and we’re going to catch fire, and I can’t wait until that happens because it’s going to be fun."
Wainwright took it a step further, comparing the struggles of this year's team to the 2011 club. The '11 Cards had a seven-game losing streak in mid-June and went 12-21 over a 33-game stretch spanning from June 10-July 20. That was the second-worst record in the NL during that span, ahead of only the Astros, who finished the year 56-106.
From there, however, St. Louis went 40-25 down the stretch on its way to winning the 2011 World Series.
"This has a lot of a 2011 feel to it. Just grind and grind and grind, and you can’t really seem to figure out what needs to happen to fall into place," Wainwright said. "Then all of a sudden it catches, and you go crazy and win a World Series. That’s the kind of team we have."
Goldschmidt echoed a similar sentiment, adding that the drop-off from April to May is just part of the ups and downs of a 162-game season.
"We've just got to keep going and find a way," Goldschmidt said. "Just start with a win -- hopefully tomorrow -- and just go from there."
A win would obviously be a great place to start, but Wainwright said sometimes it doesn't even take that much to turn around an entire season.
"It can all happen on one swing," he said.