Adam Jones and Mark Trumbo took Wainwright deep within a three-pitch span in the first inning. Then, for the first time in 268 career starts, Wainwright couldn't finish the second. Manager Mike Matheny came to get him after the Orioles batted around. Baltimore scored seven runs in the frame.
"The model of my career has been consistency, so I can't be more upset about this start," Wainwright said. "Today, I had terrible stuff and terrible command. It's a bad combo against a good hitting team in a good hitters' park."
Statistically, it was the most forgettable start of Wainwright's career. Not only did he last a career-short 1 2/3 innings, but he tied career highs in runs (nine) and home runs (three) allowed. Wainwright wasted no time trying to dissect why, either.
After being pulled, he spent the rest of the three-plus-hour game in the clubhouse trying to identify and correct the problem spots. Wainwright revisited his mechanics while staring into a mirror and cued up video of this start. He watched it through more than once.
"I had a lot of time," noted Wainwright.
The outing may have represented the low point of Wainwright's season, but it wasn't entirely isolated. Following a stretch of four straight games in which he allowed one total run, Wainwright has posted a 17.42 ERA over his last three appearances. In two of those, he's been nicked for nine runs.
"I just want to keep reminding him how the whole baseball world was talking about how phenomenal he was throwing, and that wasn't a month ago," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "When you do it like he's done it for so long, and even done it this year, you just have to trust the fact that it's there and you have to find it and find that key that opens it up again."
Every pitch was problematic for Wainwright on Saturday. He served up three 400-plus-foot homers on fastballs, and he never found the feel for his curve. And though this was the only team (aside from his own) Wainwright had not yet faced in his 12-year career, little about Wainwright seemed to be a secret to the Orioles' offense. Of the 47 pitches he threw, just two generated a swing and miss.
Wainwright's recent skid adds to the growing questions within the Cardinals' rotation. Michael Wacha's hold on a starting job is loosening, and only Carlos Martinez has been reliable of late.
That's why, despite the offense averaging 6.6 runs over the last five games, the Cardinals have won just once. During that same stretch, the rotation has surrendered 25 earned runs in 21 innings.
"A day like today, you just throw it out," Matheny said. "The grinding that this offense should have, put that together with the starting pitching we believe we should have and the bullpen finding its role, that's when we'll go on a good run."