Wainwright left frustrated by early blip

Righty settles down after allowing 6 runs over first 2 innings vs. Braves

Wainwright left frustrated by early blip

ST. LOUIS -- It may have all unfolded much differently for Adam Wainwright with one more borderline pitch called in his favor, a little more outfield coverage bailing him out, or even a quicker reaction time snuffing a rally before it snowballed. But what could have been wasn't, and a first-inning sequence of near misses turned into one that lasted 39 pitches and put the Cardinals in a hole from which they'd never emerge.

Down by three after the first inning and six by the end of two, Wainwright steadied himself to give the club a needed six-inning start, but nevertheless left the Cardinals to shoulder a 6-3 loss to the Braves on Sunday.

It marked the first time since June 27 that the Cardinals' ace lost.

"I knew I had good stuff, and I knew I was commanding the ball pretty well," said Wainwright, whose ERA swelled to 4.34. "That was a frustrating game, no doubt. We needed to win that game. I'm sorry we didn't. That was my fault. The luck was certainly not on my side today, and sometimes you need it."

What was nearly a clean, 11-pitch first inning turned into one of the more laborious innings of Wainwright's season. A pair of borderline two-strike pitches to Freddie Freeman went in the Braves' favor, and Freeman took the walk. Matt Kemp then sent a lofting flyball to right-center that neither Stephen Piscotty, nor Brandon Moss, could track down.

A Nick Markakis single up the middle then narrowly evaded the gloves of Wainwright and second baseman Kolten Wong for a two-run single.

"I should have caught that ball," Wainwright later lamented. "That's the way it went today."

Two more singles quickly followed, all of this part of a 12-batter stretch over two innings in which Wainwright garnered only two outs.

"He was close to getting out of that," manager Mike Matheny said. "It was one of those, you-wish-it-could-have-happened because once he got his rhythm and figured a few things out, he was really good."

Matheny admitted that he waffled a few times during those early innings about whether he needed to pull his ace. Jerome Williams stood ready in the bullpen by the second inning, but Matheny worried that an already-taxed bullpen could not handle that significant a load.

He stuck with Wainwright after the Braves scored their third second-inning run and again when his spot in the order came up with one out, a pair of runners in scoring position and his pitch count already at 61. And in what was the bright spot of his afternoon, Wainwright did come through.

He rebounded to twirl four scoreless innings, during which the Braves mustered two singles and did not advance another runner into scoring position.

"He did a great job of competing and staying in that game and picking up the bullpen," Matheny said. "To think that he could get through six after what we saw in the first two … [there were] not very high odds 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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.