Waino makes season debut, but result a 'head-scratcher'

May 7th, 2023

ST. LOUIS -- As an MLB veteran in his 18th season chock full of experience and institutional knowledge and someone likely headed for a successful broadcasting career in the future, Adam Wainwright has always had the gift of gab when the topic turns to almost anything surrounding baseball.

However, on Saturday, the right-handed pitcher was nearly at a loss for words when trying to describe a sequence that inexplicably knocked him from the game and sent the careening Cardinals to a low that incredibly dates to 1997 -- a time when the 41-year-old Wainwright was just 16 years old.

“I felt great out there, I felt in control of things and commanding the ball and commanding counts and I really can't understand what happened in that fifth inning,” Wainwright said after the Cardinals lost to the Tigers 6-5 in 10 innings for their eighth consecutive loss. “I feel like I pitched a scoreless game, and I gave up four runs and I really don't know why. A lot of crazy crap happened in that fifth inning, man.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what I could have done different, but it just didn’t work out,” added Wainwright, who missed the season’s first five-plus weeks because of a groin strain. “That’s just the way it's been going, I guess. I was convinced today it was going to be the end of that streak and I'm very disappointed it wasn't.”

The Cardinals reached their longest losing streak since a nine-game skid in September 2007. The 2007 season is the last time the Cardinals finished with a losing record, going 78-84. Also, at 10-24, the franchise is 14 games below .500 for the first time since finishing the 1997 season 16 games below .500.

“Look, there are a lot of veterans around here who have been doing this a long time -- even longer than me -- and everybody goes through spells where stuff just doesn’t ever bounce your way,” said veteran reliever Chris Stratton, who struck out three and allowed just one hit over 1 2/3 innings of relief. “I’m not worried about us in the long term. I just hope that we get over that hump soon and get it clicking.”

The Cardinals have been unable to get over the hump in quite some time because of relief pitching that has provided anything but relief in recent weeks. St. Louis let leads of 3-0 and 5-3 slip through its grasp on Saturday because of some uncharacteristically shaky defense and more seventh-inning troubles. Miscommunication between Gold Glover Brendan Donovan and right fielder Lars Nootbaar led to one of three fifth-inning runs for Detroit. Then, Detroit touched up lefty reliever Génesis Cabrera -- who came in not allowing an earned run in his previous six outings -- for a hit, a walk and a run in the seventh inning to knot that game at five.

A Cardinals bullpen that surrendered three seventh-inning runs in Friday’s 5-4 loss to the suddenly surging Tigers yielded five hits and two runs on Saturday. The Cardinals have given up 31 runs in seventh innings this season, tied for the most in MLB and the team’s most in any inning, a primary reason why they have had so much trouble securing leads. They have blown eight of 12 save opportunities.

“The shutdown inning is as equally as important [as taking a lead],” said Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol, who announced earlier that prized free-agent acquisition Willson Contreras would be shifted into a role where he is primarily a DH instead of catcher in the coming weeks in hopes of sparking a sagging pitching staff.

Wainwright had to settle for a no-decision in a game he looked poised to win most of the day. Entering one win shy of moving into a tie for second in Cards history in home victories and five wins short of 200 for his career, Wainwright remained at 195. He fanned five batters in the game’s first three innings -- four of them coming on sharp curveballs he kept low.

In the fifth inning, Wainwright surrendered a bloop single to score Akil Baddoo, Eric Haase scored on a pop up that traveled just 223 feet and Riley Greene punched a ball the opposite way to knot the game at 3.

“We should have won today. I didn't make the pitches, but we should’ve won this game,” said Wainwright, who surrendered eight hits. “It's a head-scratcher, honestly.

“I was excited to be out there, I was ready, and stuff was good,” he added. “Man, I just don't have a whole lot of words today. I'm very disappointed I didn’t bring it home like I should have, but I don't know what I could have done differently.”