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Wainwright struggles, may miss next start

Special to MLB.com

SAN DIEGO -- Adam Wainwright's guile and moxie was evident. But it couldn't hide his lack of command or velocity as the Cardinals fell to the Padres, 5-3, in the former ace's return from the disabled list on Sunday at Petco Park.

Wainwright, who has been battling elbow issues, lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his first start since April 16. The three-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion surrendered a career-high six walks, along with three hits and two runs.

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SAN DIEGO -- Adam Wainwright's guile and moxie was evident. But it couldn't hide his lack of command or velocity as the Cardinals fell to the Padres, 5-3, in the former ace's return from the disabled list on Sunday at Petco Park.

Wainwright, who has been battling elbow issues, lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his first start since April 16. The three-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion surrendered a career-high six walks, along with three hits and two runs.

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"I warmed up great and went out to pitch the first inning and on the third-to-last warmup pitch, I reaggravated it," Wainwright said. "I was hoping I could just maintain that level where I was at, but each time I went back out there it got harder and harder to get going. I just need a little something and I can go out and pitch but [the elbow] just didn't let me do it."

Wainwright will be sent back to St. Louis to be reevaluated, and the right-hander isn't expected take his next turn in the rotation.

"He fought all the way through, obviously," manager Mike Matheny said. "To say he didn't have his good stuff isn't even accurate. He was just trying to make things up to make it work, and amazingly the first two innings he got out of. But that's not the pitcher that he is."

Video: STL@SD: Matheny on Wainwright's rough outing in loss

Wainwright seconded his skipper.

"I need to pause and get it right," he said. "This team deserves more than that and the fans deserve more than that and the organization does, too. If I'm going to be a force down the stretch, I need to get healthy first."

In an attempt to lessen the strain on his repaired elbow, Wainwright has evolved into a hurler relying on soft pitches and deception. His fastball topped out at 89 mph, so he turned to offspeed offerings that lacked the crispness to fool the Padres.

"It's tough," Wainwright admitted. "If I'm able to go out there and make pitches and put my arm in the position where it allows me to execute, then I will take my chances against anyone.

"But I wasn't able to execute so I was falling behind, and I didn't want to give in so I was walking some guys. I wasn't working with a lot because I couldn't snap the ball. I couldn't throw my good, tight cutter, and I couldn't locate my heater. I couldn't do either one, and that makes it really tough. I don't think I can ever remember a start in my career where I walked six batters, much less in three innings."

Wainwright was tempted to tap out, but that's a tough card for this gritty Cardinal to play.

"In the second I considered it and certainly in the third I considered it," he said. "But it is really hard to pull yourself out, it's not something I've ever done. Maybe I should have done it in the second and went to Mike and said, 'Get somebody else in there.' I don't know. But I'd  rather go out and fight and see what happens."

Despite the struggles of Wainwright (1-3), who underwent his second surgery on the elbow last year, the Cardinals rallied before losing the series finale and leaving San Diego with a split of the four-game series.

St. Louis pulled to within 5-3 when Harrison Bader, who's been scuffling, produced his second extra-base hit of the game with his third homer on the season in the ninth inning. The Cardinals then loaded the bases with one out against closer Brad Hand.

But Carson Kelly whiffed and Kolten Wong went down looking as the Cardinals lost for the fourth time in six games.

Video: STL@SD: Hand strikes out Wong for the save

"We had our chances," Jedd Gyorko said. "We just couldn't capitalize."

The Cardinals climbed back into the game in the sixth. Tommy Pham coaxed a one-out walk from Clayton Richard (2-5) and he scooted home on Bader's first career triple. Jose Martinez chased in Bader with an ensuing single.

That brought a visit to the mound by pitching coach Darren Balsley. Whatever he said worked as Richard immediately got Marcell Ozuna to ground into an inning-ending double play.

Wainwright struggled from the get-go, saved from an earlier exit by his defense turning two double plays in the first two innings.

Video: STL@SD: DeJong steps on second, starts double play

But in the third, the Padres knocked him from his tight-wire act. He walked Eric Hosmer and Jose Pirela to open the frame, which would accelerate his departure. Raffy Lopez's one-out single scored Hosmer and Pirela made it 2-0 when he was knocked in by Cory Spangenberg, the last batter Wainwright faced.

"Luckily we got through the first two innings, got out of a couple of jams," Wainwright said. "But if you keep putting yourself in binds, it's going to be tough."

The Padres tacked on two more runs off John Gant in the fourth, on RBIs by Pirela and Franchy Cordero.

Now Cardinals fans hold their breath, waiting to hear Wainwright's diagnosis. He remains confident, although he conceded the elbow hurts worse than in his last start against the Cubs.

"It wasn't this bad in Chicago, and I stopped before it got this bad," he said. "It sucks."

His teammates acknowledged witnessing one of the greatest pitchers in Cardinals history falter is no joy.

"It's never easy," Gyorko said. "He is one of the toughest guys I know to go out there and gut it out."

SOUND SMART
With Wainwright failing to get the win at San Diego, Bob Forsch remains No. 5 on the franchise's list for most road victories with 70. Wainwright did surpass 1,600 strikeouts by recording six against the Padres, and he trails only Bob Gibson (3,117) among Cardinals pitchers.

HE SAID IT
"He needs to know how much we appreciate him as a warrior." -- Matheny, on tapping Wainwright on the pitcher's heart after he took the ball and replaced him in the third inning

UP NEXT
Jack Flaherty will make his third start of the season when the Cardinals resume play on Tuesday at Minnesota. Flaherty, a right-hander, looks to record his first Major League win. He struck out a career-high 13 batters over 6 2/3 innings last week for Triple-A Memphis. First pitch is set for 7:10 pm CT with Jose Berrios going for the Twins.

Jay Paris is a contributor to MLB.com based in San Diego.

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