(BaseballStL) — After six days off, Adam Wainwright returned to the mound Tuesday and left it far earlier than he hoped.
The Cardinal ace was out of sorts most of the game, struggling to find consistency in his delivery as he caromed through the Rays order.
“My delivery just completely fell out of whack. I don’t know what in the world happened but I started pushing my hands out and slouching over and lost all my power position,” he said.
He navigated through rough terrain for 12 outs, dodging major damage until the fifth inning.
The frame started poorly when Wainwright dealt a leadoff walk to Kevin Kiermaier and spiraled quickly from there. By that point in the game he knew things weren’t right and though he traditionally adjusts well on the fly, the answer continued to elude him.
“The most frustrating thing is I knew there was something going on because every time I reached back to get a little something extra, nothing was coming out like it should. Everything was off time,” he said. “When I’m timed up, if I need it, I can get two, three extra miles an hour and tonight it wasn’t timed up well.”
After a fly out to center, the big righty gave the Rays another gift when he misplayed a ball off the mound, putting two on for Matt Joyce. After pitching to a 2-2 count, Wainwright tried once more to find his reserve tank and came up empty.
“I had him set up perfectly for a fastball away and I reached back for a little more and it wasn’t there,” he said. “I drop a couple miles an hour and I think I beat him there.”
Instead, Joyce doubled home Kiermaier, and when Wainwright hit Evan Longoria on the first pitch of the next at bat, the dirt on the mound suddenly seemed more like quicksand.
“He had a rough inning more than anything else in the fifth. Couldn’t stop the bleeding,” Mike Matheny said.
A bases-loaded walk to James Loney brought in another run, making the Tampa Bay lead 3-1 and kept the stations full for Yunel Escobar. The shortstop broke the game open with a ground rule double into the right field corner that had it not hopped the wall, would have cleared the bases.
Instead, Loney would have to wait until Jose Molina scored him one hitter later with a grounder to third.
“That one inning was a train wreck. This game is incredibly frustrating at times,” Wainwright said. “Probably for the fans too; watching me wondering what in the world I was doing out there. Every now and then you just have a really crazy inning like that.”
The final sentence in the ugly chapter of Wainwright’s fifth was punctuated with a walk to opposing pitcher Jake Odorizzi. The third free pass of the inning brought Matheny out of the dugout and Seth Maness out of the bullpen.
The 32-year-old ended the night with 4.2 innings pitched, tossing only 49 of his 87 pitches for strikes.
It was his second shortest outing of the season and pushed his ERA to 2.02.
Interestingly enough, it was his last appearance against Tampa Bay that finally pushed Wainwright to mention his arm injury. Despite being in tremendous discomfort, he looked leagues better than Tuesday night.
“I felt terrible,” he said of his June 10 start. “It was the worst I ever felt and I got seven shutout innings just throwing marshmallows over the plate and letting guys hit liners right to people. Tonight I should have been good, I should have had decent stuff.”
He affirmed his health was not an issue Tuesday, telling both the media at his locker and Matheny on the field that he felt 100 percent.
“I felt great, unfortunately. You know you don’t have an excuse,” he said. “There’s no excuses here.”
Matheny wasn’t concerned about Wainwright’s health or long term outlook, instead attributing the messy outing to a matter of probability.
“I think that’s just part of the process of humbling that this game can do. Whenever you think you got it completely figured out it will reach up and grab you,” he said. “I think we just need to chalk that up to being human, and it happens.”
After he exited the game, the Georgia native watched every pitch of his most recent start against the Rays and compared it to three home starts against the Phillies, Cubs and Nationals. He said he quickly identified what went awry in his mechanics and expects next start to be business as usual.