ST. LOUIS -- The debut that Mike Mayers scripted in his mind looked anything but like the one that played out in front of a national audience as his dream dissolved into a nightmare Sunday night.
Rocked by the Dodgers for nine runs in 1 1/3 innings, Mayers endured the shortest start by a pitcher making his Major League debut in 12 years. It may be some time before Mayers gets an opportunity for a second first impression, too, as he was headed back down to Triple-A Memphis as the Cardinals, who fell, 9-6, in the series finale, headed out of town.
"I thought I did a pretty good job on the first two batters, and then I felt like it snowballed on me," Mayers said. "I felt like that was probably the hardest part -- slowing the game down."
Mayers knew it would be a one-and-done spot-start opportunity for the Cardinals, who needed a fill-in starter because of a doubleheader played last week. But he had hoped to make much more of it.
It took Mayers 29 pitches to collect his first out, a strikeout of Yasmani Grandal. By the time he tossed that ball aside for a keepsake, the Dodgers had raced out to a four-run lead. Adrian Gonzalez's grand slam landed the big blow. A two-out single by opposing starter Scott Kazmir left Mayers as the first Cardinals pitcher in 92 years to allow six first-inning runs in his debut.
"It goes back to you have to make pitches," Mayers said. "I feel like my stuff plays up here. I just didn't make pitches. They hit mistakes up here a lot more than they do in the Minor Leagues."
Manager Mike Matheny, desperate for innings coverage, stuck with Mayers until the righty completed the 45-pitch frame. Once Mayers allowed three more runs in the second, his manager left for the mound to make a pitching change and offer a message.
"What I told him when he came off was that he's done a great job, had a great season, and that's a tough assignment he just walked into," said Matheny. "Hopefully he uses that as a learning experience and builds off of it."
The nine runs allowed were the most by a Cardinals starter in his debut since Mike Busby surrendered 13 on April 7, 1996. The last time it happened elsewhere was in 2004, when Arnie Munoz of the White Sox gave up 11.
"Pile on and pile on," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "This league, nobody feels sorry for us. It's a big-boy league."
Mayers' early exit meant that a bullpen two days removed from covering 10 innings had to shoulder another 7 2/3. Seth Maness threw a career-high 53 pitches over 3 2/3 innings to settle things. In 20 2/3 innings this series, the Cardinals' bullpen allowed one run.
"If we don't get that from Seth, there's a position player pitching probably there at the end," Matheny said. "We used a couple pitchers that we didn't necessarily want to use. But they figured out how to get us through it."
The Cardinals are expected to fortify their bullpen Monday by filling Mayers' roster spot with a reliever.
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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.