Ace finds early trouble in second straight start

Cubs tag Wainwright for seven runs over two innings

Ace finds early trouble in second straight start

CHICAGO -- Five days after asking Adam Wainwright to do what was best for the team, manager Mike Matheny did what he felt was best for Wainwright on a forgettable Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

A marquee matchup between Wainwright and Jake Arrieta got out of hand in a flash, with the Cubs scoring seven runs before Wainwright could garner six outs. He wouldn't get another, either, as Matheny ended Wainwright's day then, long before the 13-2 loss would go final.

"He wanted to probably throw another five innings out there today just for the team, but it's not worth it," Matheny said. "He did what was best for the team the last time out and did it happily, and did a great job. You can't make him go back out there and do the same thing twice in a row."

Thin on bullpen help when Wainwright took the mound last Sunday, Matheny stuck with his rotation veteran even after the starter allowed six runs in the first two innings. Wainwright rebounded to finish that game with four scoreless frames.

This time, however, there was little indication that Wainwright was going to right himself. With his delivery out of whack and his pitches lacking usual life, Wainwright was pounded for five extra-base hits, and he walked two and hit a batter on a pitch that he tried to locate down and away. Matheny ended things there, though Wainwright did tally a double at the plate before his exit.

Wainwright's 30th career double

"That's one of the worst starts of my career. Period," Wainwright said. "One of the most disappointing starts, too. We needed a win. The team over there had won 10 straight games and had a very good pitcher on the mound. I just didn't show up today. That was embarrassing."

The two-inning start matched the shortest of his career for Wainwright, who pitched at least five innings in every other outing this season.

"My preparation was good, and my work between games was good," Wainwright said. "And that was the end of the good."

Though he admitted to being a bit under the weather on Friday, Wainwright dismissed that as an excuse. He also rejected the notion that he may have been tipping pitches, which the Cardinals believe may have been an issue his last time out.

"Today, the way I was tipping is that when they got in the batters' box, they knew I was going to throw something in the middle of the plate," Wainwright said. "You do that against a good team, and they're going to hit it really hard."

Wainwright retreated to the clubhouse following his early exit and estimated that he watched his 56-pitch outing three or four times to dissect all that went wrong. He keyed in on a few adjustments that need to be made to his delivery.

Physically, Wainwright insists he feels fine, even as he works to carry a full starter's load on the heels of an injury-plagued season in which he logged 28 regular-season innings. That missed time seems to have messed more with Wainwright's mechanics than it has his strength.

It has led to what Wainwright labeled on Friday as "the worst season of my career." His ERA, which was 6.80 after eight starts but down to 4.16 by the end of July, has swelled back to 4.72. His record is now 9-7 and the Cardinals are a 15-9 team behind him.

"This is terrible," Wainwright said before he finally left the park on Friday. "There is a lot of season left for me. I've got to get some things turned around for this team."

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.