06/19/07 12:56 AM ET
Cards come up empty in opener
Early miscues, missed chances doom St. Louis
By Daniel Berk / MLB.com
The righty wanted to make the Royals hitters adjust to him.
Consider it done.
Wainwright gave up five runs in the first four innings on Monday night at Busch Stadium and the Cardinals lineup couldn't capitalize on a couple of rallies as the Cards fell to the Royals, 5-3, in the series opener between the two in-state rivals.
"You just have to tip your cap, they made the adjustments," Wainwright said. "I took the same game plan out there. I had to adjust it after a while and try and get outs different ways. For the most part, they were good today and I had to battle all day."
Wainwright ran into trouble right off the bat on Monday night, but not because the Royals were pounding his pitches, but because the righty was having trouble fielding his position.
With one out in the first, Esteban German laid down a bunt to the right of the mound. Wainwright came over to field it and picked it up cleanly, but then threw it wide of first baseman Albert Pujols. With German on second base, Wainwright spun around to try and pick him off, but instead the ball sailed into center field and German moved up to third base.
He was eventually brought home by a two-out RBI single from Emil Brown to put the Royals on the board. Something they couldn't do for eight innings, last time out against Wainwright.
"My fielding stunk, what else can you say?" Wainwright said. "There were some head-scratchers today."
After the Cards tied the game at 1, Wainwright gave two runs right back in the second. Royals catcher John Buck started the inning with a solo home run to center field. Ryan Shealy then doubled to put a runner on second with no outs. Wainwright settled down and got the next two hitters, but then allowed a two-out RBI single to David DeJesus.
Tony Pena Jr. started the inning with a single. Royals starter Odalis Perez squared up to bunt Pena over. He popped a ball up, and Wainwright slid in to try and catch it, but couldn't come up with it and the ball bounced away, moving Pena over to second, and giving Perez an infield single. After an RBI groundout by German, Mark Teahen came through with a two-out single to score Perez and give the Royals a 5-1 lead.
"If you throw seven innings, you're going to throw a couple of bad ones," Wainwright said. "I look at a couple of key at-bats through the game. They obviously did have a better answer. I made more quality pitches the time before, but I made a lot of them tonight too."
In his first year as a starter, Wainwright has struggled to follow up a strong outing with another one his next time out. One start after he gave up one run in seven innings to the Astros on June 1, he allowed four runs in six innings and took the loss his next time out against the Reds on June 7. Earlier in the year after Wainwright went six innings and gave up two runs in a win against the Rockies, he was rocked his next time out against the Dodgers, giving up eight runs in 2 2/3 innings.
He finished Monday going seven innings and giving up five runs (four earned) on nine hits and walking one. He didn't strike out a batter. After giving up five runs in the first four innings, Wainwright was able to settle down and give his team a chance.
The Cards actually found themselves with a number of chances to get back in the game, but could never get over the hump.
In the first inning, the Cards loaded the bases with no outs, and only got one run out of it -- a double play by Juan Encarnacion that scored leadoff hitter So Taguchi. In the fifth, Encarnacion had another chance with the bases loaded. This time, it came with one out and one run already in. After the Royals intentionally walked Pujols for the second time in the game, Encarnacion grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
"It's just part of the game. You have to give [Perez] credit," Encarnacion said. "I got a pitch to hit, but I guess I didn't get it."
Pujols came into the game 13-for-19 against Perez lifetime with 15 RBIs, but didn't see much to hit this time around. Besides his two intentional walks, Pujols struck out swinging and singled in his only other at-bats against Perez.
Perez was in the opposite boat of Wainwright. Last time he faced the Cards, he gave up six earned runs in three innings on 10 hits. This time around, he was much more efficient, giving up three runs on six hits in six innings.
"He threw a lot of balls over the plate the first time," Cards third baseman Scott Rolen said. "Tonight, he changed speeds, moved the ball around a bit and threw a better game."
Rolen was one of the few hitters to get to Perez with a fourth inning solo home run, his first homer since May 29 and fourth on the year.
The Cards couldn't get much going off the Royals relievers either. After Perez exited, David Riske, Joakim Soria and Octavio Dotel held the Cards scoreless over the final three innings and gave the Cards their third loss in four tries to the Royals.
"The difference in the game was two-out hits," Manager Tony La Russa said. "It was a winnable game for both sides, and they won it."
Daniel Berk is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.