Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright had handled the Milwaukee Brewers better than almost any other team he had faced at 16-8 (he is 10-1 against Colorado). And his career earned-run average of 2.33 against the Brewers ranked second to none other than Roger Clemens.
But the Brewers nearly doubled that ERA in one fateful first frame Wednesday night at Busch Stadium. Mike Moustakas’ three-run homer, his 31st, on a low 0-2 curveball, capped a four-run inning for the Brewers, who managed to hold off a late Cardinals charge for a 5-3 win in a game that was called by the umpires after 7½ innings by rain, lightning and the strong possibility of continued rain for several hours.
It was the first rain-shortened game in Busch Stadium III. The delay was 1 hour 6 minutes and the Cardinals, of course, didn’t think that was long enough. The umpires called the game at 10:46 p.m.
“Kind of bogus,” said shortstop Paul DeJong.
“What can you do? We were ready to play. They felt this coming in and they didn’t give us a chance.”
But DeJong added, “We had our chances early in the game, though, to tie it up at least. It’s over now. Move on — and hope the Cubs lose.”
Chicago beat San Francisco 12-11 Wednesday to move a half game ahead of the Cardinals into first place in the National League Central Division.
“A series win,” said DeJong of the Cardinals taking two of three from Milwaukee. “Kind of bittersweet.”
Manager Mike Shildt said he was disappointed not to be able to continue. “Of course. Absolutely,” he said. “We wait an hour. Didn’t get an opportunity to finish a game we fought and scratched and clawed and felt like we were definitely in and felt really good about winning, quite honestly.”
Wainwright said, “We were lucky to play as long we were. We had our chances.
“But that first inning cost us the game.”
Wainwright lost his bid for a 10th season of double-figure wins, which would have made him the only active pitcher in the National League to have achieved that. He also would have tied Bob Forsch for third on the Cardinals’ list behind Hall of Famers Bob Gibson (14) and Jesse “Pop” Haines (11).
The Cardinals sliced a 5-0 lead to 5-2 in the fifth and then to 5-3 in the sixth but Matt Carpenter and Harrison Bader both struck out with men at second and third.
“It looked like we were mounting a comeback there,” said Wainwright. “But you can’t mess with Mother Nature.”
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell, who had ace lefthander Josh Hader lined up to pitch two innings, said the rain “worked in our favor, that’s for sure.”
But if there was blame to be had, Wainwright was shouldering all of it.
“Terrible stuff,” he said of his arsenal. “From the first pitch of the game on, the worst fastball command I’ve had all year. Not a terrible breaking ball but not an overly sharp one either. Sloppy cutter. So, tough sledding today.
“I’m disappointed that I came here into a big series and had one of my worst outings of the year. There’s no excuses. Obviously, you can put that whole game on me. I set the tone from the first inning on.
“When you put up a four-spot in the first, you’re putting your team behind the eight-ball and that’s what happened.”
Lorenzo Cain singled to right in the Milwaukee first and Yasmani Grandal dropped a single in front of center fielder Bader and left fielder Marcell Ozuna. Christian Yelich lined to deep center but rookie Keston Hiura singled out of the reach of diving shortstop DeJong for the game’s first run.
Moustakas then connected for his fourth career hit in 10 at-bats against Wainwright. “The biggest pitch of the day,” said Wainwright. “It’s below the zone. It’s going to bounce. Yadi (catcher Yadier Molina) goes down to block the ball. (Moustakas) just got under it. The problem was that I threw him a really good one the pitch before. It had a better spin to it. The next one . . . it didn’t have the same bite.”
In the fourth, Yelich beat out a tapper to a largely unoccupied left side of the infield and and Ozuna failed to make the grab on Hiura’s liner which went for a double in left center, chasing home Yelich from first.
“I lost it in the lights,” said Ozuna. “I just kept running to see if I could catch it.”
Shildt said, “We typically see him make that play.”
Wainwright, who threw 109 pitches in five innings, said he had trouble sweating more than he said he ever had.
“I had a terrible grip on the ball,” he said. “No matter how many times I went to that resin bag . . . the ball was coming out of my hands very slippery. Any time I tried to throw a two-seamer, I threw it about seven feet high.”
The Cardinals surged for two unearned runs in the fifth when the Brewers threw the ball around and booted it.
Then rookie Junior Fernandez entered to pitch the sixth. It took 30 pitches — 13 of which were strikes — a hit batman and two walks, but Fernandez had a scoreless inning when he fanned Ryan Braun on a 3-2 changeup with the bases loaded and then had a 1-2-3 seventh.
“I felt great being able to come back from two walks and a hit by pitch,” said Fernandez. “That 3-2 changeup I really committed to. Yadi called changeup and that was down the middle.”
Molina doubled after singles by Ozuna and DeJong to make it 5-3 with one out in the sixth. But lefthander Alex Claudio relieved to strike out Carpenter, who jabbed at the ball, in his fourth consecutive strikeout over two nights. Righthander Matt Albers fell behind Bader at 3-0 and struck him out, too.
Shildt, asked about pinch hitting for Carpenter said, “There’s always a thought. Claudio’s a tough look, but (Carpenter) is capable of taking a tough at-bat against him. We were in our bench a little early so you’re looking at running out of guys if you’re in the sixth.
“We get it. It’s about production in the moment. But it’s also an opportunity for him to grab a big hit, put the ball in play . . . he’s a fly ball guy. We’re looking at a run on the board if he puts it in play. The infield’s back. He didn’t.
“But it wasn’t a logical decision (to pinch hit).”
Many in the paid crowd of 40,250 headed for the exits after this inning. Only 26,109 were there in the first place.
The Cardinals will entertain the Rockies in a four-game set beginning on Thursday night. To hold to their mantra of winning series, the Cardinals would have to win three games,
“Nothing less,” said DeJong.
Wainwright’s next start will come Monday — in Milwaukee. “I need a rematch,” said Wainwright.
“It was my best effort (Wednesday). But it was poor execution. I’ll be ready next game.”