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A little self-reflection gets Waino back on track

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- With only a brief detour to cue up video that he hoped would reveal the source of his struggles, Adam Wainwright went from the mound to the mirror last Saturday in Baltimore. And after hours of repetition, he eventually discovered his old self staring back.

Wainwright turned the worst statistical start of his career into five days of work and reflection, all of which served as an important backstory to the performance he then delivered on Friday. Shaking off three troublesome starts, Wainwright held the Pirates to two hits over seven innings while settling for a no-decision in the team's 4-3 loss.

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ST. LOUIS -- With only a brief detour to cue up video that he hoped would reveal the source of his struggles, Adam Wainwright went from the mound to the mirror last Saturday in Baltimore. And after hours of repetition, he eventually discovered his old self staring back.

Wainwright turned the worst statistical start of his career into five days of work and reflection, all of which served as an important backstory to the performance he then delivered on Friday. Shaking off three troublesome starts, Wainwright held the Pirates to two hits over seven innings while settling for a no-decision in the team's 4-3 loss.

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"It was the most comfortable I've been on the mound all year. Period," Wainwright said after allowing two runs (one earned) in a 97-pitch outing. "A lot of hard work between starts went into that. I got done with my start in Baltimore, and literally, I just felt sick to my stomach that that's what came out of my arm that day."

Tweet from @Cardinals: Rest up @UncleCharlie50, you did great! ��7.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 97 pitches (66 strikes)#WainosWorld | #STLCards pic.twitter.com/i2HcgP6lNF

So he set out to determine why.

Video offered the clue. As Wainwright watched, he saw a pitcher trying too hard to generate velocity and, as a result, sacrificing sound mechanics. Wainwright took that observation to the mirror, where he then worked to get his delivery and motion back in sync. He sought simplicity and likened the motion to playing darts.

"Take my chin right toward my target," Wainwright said, "and see how many pitches I could make."

After dozens of dry runs, Wainwright, who had given up nine runs that day in Baltimore and 20 over his previous three starts, took the approach onto the Busch Stadium mound with great success on Friday. Pittsburgh hitters who may have expected Wainwright to labor and pitch from behind instead found themselves facing a pitcher in nearly complete control.

"Obviously he's not throwing as hard as he would like or used to, but he's a bulldog as a pitcher," said former teammate David Freese. "He used his movement to get outs. He did a good job tonight."

Video: PIT@STL: Wainwright K's Mercer, strands one at third

Wainwright relied heavily on his sinker and cutter, two pitches that accounted for 68 of the 97 he threw. He tallied 21 called strikes -- his third-highest total this season -- and allowed an average exit velocity of 79.4 mph. Six days earlier, that figure sat at 92.3 mph when Wainwright walked off the mound, unable to finish the second inning.

"I thought he did a great job establishing everything," manager Mike Matheny said. "He just found that feel and that rhythm that we talk about. When he finds it, he rolls."

The seven innings pitched tied a season high for Wainwright. He had completed 10 1/3 innings in his last three starts combined.

"Where I was mentally after Baltimore was about as low as I think I may have ever been, just knowing that was unacceptable," Wainwright said. "I was going to work really hard to get out of that."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

St. Louis Cardinals, Adam Wainwright