ATLANTA — Manager Mike Shildt almost always looks for a positive spin he can put on a Cardinals defeat. And there have been plenty lately, 11 losses in 14 games, which would test even college graduate Shildt’s ample vocabulary.
There was little upside apparent to the naked eye Thursday night, for instance. Poor starting pitching. Equally as unsteady relief pitching. Scant offense. A couple of grounders that could have been fielded scooting by for run-scoring singles.
There was that jumping catch that center fielder Harrison Bader made near the wall to end the eighth. But most of the aforementioned amounted to a 10-2 trampling by the Atlanta Braves and a fourth consecutive series loss for the Cardinals, something that didn’t come close to happening last year.
“I don’t know what the right word to describe it is,” said Shildt. He decided that word would be “frustrating.” But frustration at what?
“What would be more frustrating?” he said. “Playing ugly baseball — guys not giving effort, not taking good at-bats? We’ve still got a few things to clean up. Let’s not kid ourselves.
“But the effort is there. The preparation is there. The execution could be there a little more consistently but we’re not giving a whole lot away. If you could find the at-bat we gave away tonight, you’ve got a better chance of finding Waldo.”
Later, Shildt determined that “either way it’s frustrating. We’re not winning games. We’re not getting that big hit. And we’ve got to pitch a little better. We’ve got to get the lead. We’ve got to hold the lead when we get it.
“We’re still walking too many guys. We’re still not controlling counts consistently enough and that’s what’s killing us.
“But I’m not going to live in the past. We’ve got to move forward and get our heads out of this little funk.”
Seventeen runs scored in one game. A total of two in the next two. Fourteen runs in another game. Three in the next two.
“Baffling is a great word,” Shildt said. “It’s hard for me to sit here as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and say I should never be baffled by anything, but by the same token I’m looking at things that are really unprecedented.
“Several nights ago, 10 hits, a couple of walks and the other team (Pittsburgh) made three errors. And we scored one run.”
• BOX SCORE: Braves 10, Cardinals 2
• STANDINGS: Cards 3½ back in NL Central
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright walked five in four innings. Two of the walks were intentional but two others were leadoff walks and both scored, one each in the second and third.
Wainwright said he was unable to locate his fastball or his breaking ball.
“Tonight was a weird night,” he said. “My arm slot was a little low. It was kind of wandering around. I was sweeping those curveballs in the batters’ swing paths. Just an atypical night.
“My curveball stunk. And my fastball command stunk. I’ll take any criticism that y’all want to give me.”
Native Georgian Wainwright was pitching in his 31st major league stadium, including Monterrey, Mexico, when he made his first appearance in SunTrust Park.
Wainwright, 4-1 at Atlanta’s Turner Field, fell behind 2-0 in the second, with rookie Austin Riley doubling off the top of the right-center-field brick wall to deliver the key hit.
Riley had homered in his big-league debut the night before and Wainwright said, “He’s a great player. I think he’s going to be a superstar, especially if you throw the ball in the middle of the plate.
“With big-league hitters, you can’t throw the ball in the middle of the plate to anybody, unless you’re Jordan Hicks or somebody — which I’m not.”
Wainwright (3-4) has a 2.45 earned run average at home in four starts and 6.75 on the road in five starts.
“It stinks,” said Wainwright. “I know half of Glynn County, where I’m from, was at the game today. I left a bunch of tickets for family and a lot of good, close friends are here. You never want to pitch like that ever — but especially in front of people who travel five hours to watch you pitch.”
Veteran reliever Luke Gregerson was cuffed for four singles in a span of five hitters in a three-run sixth. Dominic Leone allowed two more runs, including Freddie Freeman’s homer.
The offense consisted of Marcell Ozuna’s 13th homer in the sixth and Matt Carpenter’s fifth homer in the eighth.
There was one other bright spot offensively in that the Cardinals ran starter Julio Teheran’s pitch count to 100 by the start of the sixth inning. He gave up his second hit to start that inning and he had walked four but the Cardinals hadn’t broken through.
Schild said, “I turned to Ollie (bench coach Oliver Marmol) and said, ‘This isn’t normal.’
“That’s pretty rare for a guy to be that far in the game and be at the 100-pitch mark and not have any runs tacked on him. But he didn’t.”
And the Cardinals headed into the not-so-good-night for Arlington, Texas and an interleague series this weekend with the Texas Rangers where one or two runs a game probably aren’t going to be enough. The Cardinals trail division leader Chicago by 3½ games, and are only 3 games ahead of last-place Cincinnati.
“April was great,” said Wainwright. “We were No. 1 on everybody’s power ranking in April. In May, we have not pitched the way we can pitch. And we haven’t hit the ball the way we can hit. When we did hit it, it seems like it’s all in one big game.
“Baseball is a weird, weird game. Month to month, you can see two totally different teams out there with the same guys. Hopefully, we’ll get this turned around quickly because we just haven’t played good baseball in May.”
Even a change in home-plate umpires halfway through when Manny Gonzalez got sick and Jim Wolf took over didn’t make any difference.
“The reality is that nobody is going to feel sorry for us,” Shildt said. “ And we’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves. We’re moving forward. That’s as simple as I can make it.
“We’re not going to get stuck in whatever this might be.”