Wainwright takes loss, is ready to put August behind him

Adam Wainwright recorded a quality start Wednesday but continued to look 'grindy.' He took the loss as the Pirates won the rubber game of a three-game series over the Cardinals.

'I'm ready to move into September and build off the few good pitches I did throw,' Adam Wainwright says.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

For one inning anyway, Adam Wainwright pitched like Adam Wainwright of the first half.

But for the next five innings at Pittsburgh on Wednesday afternoon, he was back in his "grindy" mode, his second-half "funk" or whatever you want to call it.

Still, put the six innings together and Wainwright was good enough to record a quality start. But he wasn't good enough to get a win on a day when the Cardinals' scoring was limited to a Matt Holliday home run. The result was a 3-1 loss that clinched the Cardinals' fifth straight series loss on the road.

Wainwright started strong by striking out the first two Pirates and retiring Andrew McCutchen on a liner to short. "Best I've felt in over a month," said Wainwright, who told reporters that he has been going through a "dead arm" period. "I felt locked back in for a moment."

He made his biggest mistake in the second when, after hitting Starling Marte, he threw a first-pitch cutter that Ike Davis knocked over the right-center wall in about the same spot as where he deposited his game-deciding three-run homer the night before. "I threw one right into Ike's swing path," Wainwright said of the misplaced pitch.

Wainwright appeared headed for bigger trouble in the third when he loaded the bases with no outs but he allowed only one run, on a sacrifice fly to deep center by McCutchen. Wainwright allowed at least one runner to reach in each of his final three innings but did not give up any more runs. The Pirates touched him for eight hits and he walked one and hit one batter.

"The way the month has gone," Wainwright said. "It's been a grind and I'll continue to go out there and battle my tail off until things click back into place. I know I'm very close. ... I'm finding ways to get outs and one of these days, it's going to click in and it's going to be real nice."

Said manager Mike Matheny: "He's still fighting, just part of the grind of the season. We rely heavily on him and he was able to get through it there. We saw times when everything was on time but other times the ball was flying. It's just finding that feel consistently.

"The guy is a warrior, an absolute example of how you're supposed to continue  to go through this. Too bad we couldn't get a little more run support."

Wainwright has grown accustomed to pitching without a lot of run support this season. He hasn't gotten used to scuffling like he has in August. In six starts this month, Wainwright has put up a 5.17 ERA, allowed 44 hits in 38 1/3 innings and struck out only 28.

"This month is over for me," he said. "I'm ready to move into September and build off the few good pitches I did throw."

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3 UP

-- Carlos Martinez. He worked two scoreless innings and continued to show improvement since returning from a two-plus-week stint in the minors. Martinez gave up two hits in the seventh but worked his way out of a jam by getting Davis to fly out to left with runners on second and third. He has made five appearances since coming back up, and four of them have been scoreless. Martinez has not walked a batter while striking out four in 6 2/3 innings since his recall. He has pitched well enough to put himself in position to return to the rotation when the team needs a starter Tuesday.

-- Matt Adams' walks. Hits have been harder to come by since the break for Adams, but his walks have gone up dramatically. After walking just 12 times in his first 109 games, he has walked eight times in his past eight games. Still, he reamins one of the toughest batters in the NL to walk, ranking third with a rate of one walk every 24 plate appearances.

-- Daniel Descalso. Again showing he can be productive when given a chance, Descalso picked up two of the Cardinals' seven hits while starting at second base. It was Descalso's fourth start since Aug. 9 and the fourth time he reached base at least twice. He also turned a difficult double play when he fielded a grounder, tagged the runner on his way to second and, as he was losing his balance, scooped to first.


-- Cardinals hitters. Just when it looked like they had hit a stride, scoring at least four runs in 10 straight games, the Cardinals' bats have gone back into slumber mode over the past four games. Since Sunday, they have scored just seven runs total while dropping three of the four games. Besides Holliday's third-inning homer, the Cardinals had only two players reach second base against Jeff Locke and the Pirates' bullpen.

-- Matt Carpenter. Perhaps it's no coincidence the offense has stalled as the Cardinals' leadoff man has struggled for base hits. Carpenter went 0 for 3 to extend a hitless streak to four games, equaling his longest such skid of the season. Even though he's in an 0-for-13 skid, Carpenter still has reached base in three of the four games with four walks.

-- Road trip. If hearing the Cardinals dropped two of three in a road series sounds familiar, there's a reason. The Cardinals have dropped two of three in each of their past five road series and have fallen four games under .500 away from Busch Stadium. The bright spot: They have only 14 road games to go, compared with 16 at home.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.