Wainwright, Cardinals stumble in '13 opener
PHOENIX -- He owns a pair of World Series rings, a 20-win season and a contract extension that will soon position him as one of the league's highest paid pitchers. Still absent from Adam Wainwright's resume, however, is an Opening Day win.
Less than a week after signing the most lucrative contract extension for a pitcher in franchise history, Wainwright took the mound with an opportunity to set the tone for the Cardinals' season. Playing spoiler to the narrative, though, was Arizona, which peppered 11 hits off Wainwright en route to a 6-2 victory in front of 48,033 at Chase Field on Monday night.
A pair of ill-advised baserunning decisions and a defense exposed by an expansive outfield kept the Cardinals from being able to bail out Wainwright in the second Opening Day start of his career.
"Guys took aggressive chances, and it didn't work out," manager Mike Matheny said. "Everything [the D-backs] did seemed to go their way."
Most notably, that included finding the outfield gaps, which Arizona did with regularity in the middle innings. After cruising through three scoreless innings on 37 pitches, Wainwright struggled to get the desired finish on his pitches. That resulted in more pitches hanging over the plate, and the patient D-backs capitalized.
After two one-out singles in the fourth, Jason Kubel delivered a game-tying RBI double. Three pitches later, A.J. Pollock lined a 1-1 fastball into center that Jon Jay was unable to snag on a diving attempt. The ball caromed off Jay's glove, allowing two runs to score.
"It's all about hitting mistakes," Pollock said. "Today we capitalized on it, some days you don't. I think we did a good job of being patient and waiting for a pitch to hit, and we were able to do some damage."
Three of the D-backs' four hits in the frame came with two strikes. It took Wainwright 34 pitches before he could end the inning.
"They had a great night going," Wainwright said. "Had I executed like I had the first three innings, we would have been talking about other stuff right now. I made some pitches up in the zone, and they made me pay for them as the game went on. Tip your hat there. They took advantage of mistakes."
Not a factor, Wainwright said, was the liner that he took off the upper part of his right arm in the third inning. He shooed Matheny, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and trainer Greg Hauck back to the dugout when they came to check on him, and closed out the frame two pitches later.
Wainwright, after showing the welt still on his arm after the game, said the incident had no effect on the life of his pitches.
Arizona knocked Wainwright around with five more hits -- and tacked on an unearned run -- before the right-hander's six-inning outing came to an end. In 32 starts last season, Wainwright allowed 11 hits just once.
"They put together good at-bats against him," Matheny said. "Real good pitches he made once he did get his curveball going, they were just fouling them off and forcing them onto the bigger part of the plate. Those are the kinds of at-bats that run a pitch count up and gave him a tough time."
Kirk Gibson's Arizona club found outfield holes with regularity, too. The D-backs tallied seven doubles and had outfielder Carlos Beltran, in particular, on the move all night.
"There are going to be balls that are going to be hit in the right spot," said Beltran, who continues to play while his fractured right small toe heals. "It's a big outfield. We tried to do the best we could to cover the most ground out there. They got some balls in places where nobody was able to get them."
"That's why you keep the ball on the ground," added Wainwright. "It's really, really hard to hit a ground ball in the gap. When you have these big outfields, that's what you have to do."
Despite the continuum of baserunners in the middle innings, Wainwright was able to keep the game from getting too far out of hand by notching five of his six strikeouts with a runner in scoring position. The Cardinals' lineup, though, could do little to peck away at the deficit against Arizona's Ian Kennedy, who was making his third straight Opening Day start. He entered the night with an 8.59 ERA in four career starts against St. Louis.
After jumping in front early with back-to-back doubles by Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday in the first inning, the Cardinals' offensive noise was minimal. A pair of baserunning blunders didn't help their cause, either.
Holliday, after his first-inning double, was thrown out trying to advance to third on a ball hit to the shortstop. In the seventh, Daniel Descalso, after driving in Yadier Molina with a two-out single, was thrown out trying to advance to second. That ended the inning and kept the potential tying run from coming to the plate.
"Probably not the right decision in that situation," said Descalso, whose throwing error an inning earlier led to an Arizona run. "If I did it over, I probably wouldn't have done it. I was trying to be aggressive, but probably was over-aggressive there."
Minutes after Descalso was erased from the basepath, Arizona tacked on two more runs against reliever Fernando Salas, who didn't retire any of the three batters he faced on Monday.
Kennedy finished with eight strikeouts in his seven-inning start, matching the longest of his career against the Cardinals.
"Guys were having trouble picking him up today," Matheny said. "They did all the little things right from the start."