When talking about the best pitchers of the past decade who also never happened to win a Cy Young Award, right-hander Adam Wainwright has to lead the conversation. Excluding those times when he pitches against the Cincinnati Reds, anyway.
The Reds roughed up Wainwright for the second straight start Monday, battering him for six runs and 10 hits, including two home runs, in a 7-2 victory at Great American Ball Park. Five days earlier, he allowed nine runs and eight hits over two innings at Busch Stadium. Still, this wasn't much of an improvement. What's been the deal, Waino?
Via the Associated Press, he's not sure:
''The last time, it was a matter of me leaving too many ball in the middle of the plate,'' Wainwright said. ''Today, they hit some good pitches. I feel very strong. I've had some good games against them in the past. It's a head-scratcher, to be honest with you.''
It's an important series for Cincinnati, which now trails the Cardinals by 2 1/2 games.
Another thing is, as it relates to the Reds, it's not just the past two starts.
Wainwright, who finished third and second in Cy Voting in consecutive years in 2009 and 2010, pitches more like Sy Sperling when he faces the Reds. Wainwright has a 7.77 ERA against them in four starts against them this season. Over the life of his career, Wainwright has allowed a 5.11 ERA, with Reds batters slugging .470 collectively. That's no bueno, Waino. The Mets and Pirates also seem to get to him, and he's mediocre overall against the Cubs, but Wainwright is really good (bueno) against everyone else, other than the stray game here or there.
Back in 2010, Wainwright compiled a 2.88 ERA in four starts against the Reds, so it's not just the laundry he's struggling with. Why Wainwright has struggled lately might have to do with a start he made before his two more recent ones against Cincy. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch posits:
Since a 128-pitch complete game against Atlanta, Wainwright’s Cy Young Award-resume took a detour. He has lost both starts and his ERA rose from 2.58 to 3.14. The Cardinals have lost five of his past eight starts.
Wainwright insisted that he was not hampered by the workload or injured. He said Monday afternoon that he is more “fatigued mentally” than physically.
“The reason I’m so frustrated is because I feel so good,” Wainwright said, “and I’m not making it happen for us.”
It's possible, in this moment of crisis, we need to turn to Reds skipper Dusty Baker for an explanation:
''That's a real good pitcher,'' Baker said. ''We have nothing but respect for Wainwright. He's not the guy that you would exactly choose to face twice a week. It's a funny game.''
It's a funny game. And that actually might get to the bottom of it.