Wainwright finds no justice vs. Brewers

Wainwright finds no justice vs. Brewers

ST. LOUIS -- Solo home runs don't beat you. Shutouts by the other team do.

Adam Wainwright pitched his best game of the season on Saturday afternoon but has nothing to show for it, thanks to an equally masterful outing by former teammate Jeff Suppan. Wainwright was the hard-luck loser as the Cardinals fell, 1-0, to Suppan and the Brewers at Busch Stadium. Corey Hart's second-inning homer provided the visitors' margin of victory.

Newly rededicated to throwing his sinking fastball, and sporting an adjusted arm slot that allowed him to locate it, Wainwright looked like the burgeoning ace the Cardinals got so used to seeing in 2008 and the first half of '07. They'd scarcely seen that pitcher in '09, however. Wainwright had only two quality starts in seven outings on the season, and he had a 5.23 ERA over his past five starts.

But the mechanical tweak -- lowering his arm slot a few inches -- combined with the mental one -- establishing the fastball and sticking with it -- added up to a virtuoso showing.

"I just got back to me, really," Wainwright said. "I kind of got out of whack for a few games, and now I'm back. The important thing is don't get too comfortable, to continue to try to work off of it and build on it instead of getting nonchalant."

With the bases empty, Wainwright attacked, getting feeble ground balls early in counts and feebler strikeouts in deeper counts. On the rare occasions that Milwaukee put a runner on base, Wainwright was unruffled, deftly escaping the only serious threat he faced.

"The first few times through the lineup, he was sinking it and cutting it and had a little slider working," said Brewers manager Ken Macha. "And then, as you got locked into that as a hitter, he started throwing his curveball. That thing was really effective. He pitched exceptionally well. That's a tough loss for him."

If only it weren't for one solitary pitch -- a 2-2 fastball that was up too much. If not for that, the two clubs might still be playing. Wainwright got ahead of Hart, 0-2. Hart fouled off a fastball and a curveball to stay alive, then watched two pitches out of the zone. At 2-2, Wainwright came over the middle of the plate and up in the zone with a fastball, and he paid for the mistake.

"The two pitches I threw him 0-2 were, right out of the hand, balls," Wainwright said. "Those don't really do any good for you. I threw him a good fastball that he fouled off, and then I threw him one down the middle."

Still, a solo home run should never beat a pitcher -- it's one of Wainwright's pitching mantras, not to mention a basic truth of the game. And it wasn't really the solo homer that did it; it was the opposing hurler.

Wainwright's teammates simply couldn't solve Suppan. The ex-Cardinals righty allowed plenty of baserunners but no big hits. The Cardinals had at least one man on base in six of Suppan's seven innings, but couldn't push through. Suppan improved to 7-2 with a 2.92 ERA against the Cardinals in his Major League career and 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA against his old team since leaving as a free agent after the 2006 season.

"When he's making pitches like that, it's really tough," said Chris Duncan, who went 0-for-4, including 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. "He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he really locates well when he's going good, and today he was doing that."

The Cardinals dropped one game behind the first-place Brewers in the National League Central, the first time they haven't had at least a share of the division lead since April 9. They've lost eight of their past 12 since climbing to a season-high 10 games over .500 on May 1.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.