CINCINNATI — Maybe it was just a matter of time against a team that had lost 11 straight. Maybe it was just their day to get timely hitting and pitching.
Or maybe, the Reds woke up long enough from their early-season slumber to realize they could again make life miserable for Adam Wainwright.
On Sunday afternoon, the Reds scored twice in the first and once more in the second and sixth to beat the Cardinals and Wainwright, 4-1, before 23,124 fans at Great American Ball Park.
The Reds, who struggled mightily to score runs through their 11-game skid, put the pressure on Wainwright early and often.
“I think they might have just said they’re done [with losing] and their streak needed to be over because they were pretty resilient against me today,” Wainwright said.
In five of the six innings Wainwright started on Sunday, the Reds had their leadoff hitter reach, all via base hits. In the first inning, the Reds scored twice when Colin Moran’s sacrifice fly scored the first run and Nick Senzel’s single to right scored another. Tyler Naquin’s groundout netted Cincinnati’s third run in the second.
“Yeah, [Wainwright’s] good,” Naquin said. “I’ve probably faced him like five or six times now. He doesn’t miss a lot. He’s just all-around good. He’s got a lot of tools and he can put it where he wants it. My hat’s always off to him, he’s had a hell of a career and he’s still going. We were able to get after him pretty early. I think that’s what helped. It kind of got contagious.”
Added Cardinals skipper Oliver Marmol, “[Wainwright] definitely gave us a shot and battled through it. Early on, [he] couldn’t locate the fastball and they were aware of it and sat soft and were able to get some production on the breaking ball and the cutter. [He] started locating his fastball a little better and got us to the sixth. But they got him early.”
Tommy Pham doubled to open the sixth and scored when Marmol elected to keep Wainwright in to face Joey Votto and Moran instead of going to lefty TJ McFarland. Votto walked and Moran singled home Pham.
“That’s a part of the game that I mulled over quite a bit before the game even started,” Marmol said. “Votto’s seen, since 2019, I think 784 sinkers from a left-hander and he’s hit .340 with a .893 OPS.
“So, you’re sitting there and McFarland is going to have to go to the sinker to get the double play. I’m not a big believer in small sample size, but he’s 3-for-5 [against McFarland] because of that. With the three-batter minimum, he’s not going to face Moran. He’s going to see [Aristides] Aquino or [Brandon] Drury and then followed by Senzel, so we took our shot with Waino.”
Wainwright allowed four runs on eight hits and three walks, striking out three in five-plus innings. On the bright side, he didn’t allow a home run or anything threatening the seats.
“You keep the ball in the park at Great American, usually you’re going to win the game,” Wainwright said. “They didn’t hit any homers, but they played good small ball today. They put some at-bats on me. I was not going to give in to the heart of the lineup in a couple of those situations. They put some at-bats on me.”
Wainwright’s puzzling struggles against the Reds over his career continued. He fell to 10-16 lifetime in 32 starts, making the Reds the only club with a winning record (minimum two decisions) against the 40-year-old. His 5.34 ERA against Cincinnati is his highest against any National League opponent.
“I don’t know, man. I don’t know what the deal is with this place,” said Wainwright, who fell to 7-8 at GABP in 20 career starts. “It doesn’t make any sense. I had a couple of years here where I pitched really well, but it makes no sense where I can’t come in here and win more games than I do. But it’s frustrating. It’s added two points on my career ERA pitching in this darn place. I love to come visit here, but I’m ready for them to build a new park or something.
“It doesn’t make any sense. I’m going to try and get past that. The best games I’ve pitched against them is when they had their best teams. Pitched a really good Opening Day against Johnny Cueto in ’14 and a couple of years in a row where I pitched really well, but they’ve had my number since.”
The Cards had their chances to get back into it in the sixth and seventh innings. In the sixth, they chased rookie starter Nick Lodolo from the game when Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O’Neill each doubled with one out to erase the goose egg from the run column.
But Tony Santillan came on with two outs and put out the fire, getting Albert Pujols to foul out to Votto to end the St. Louis rally. In the seventh, Edmundo Sosa singled with one out and Harrison Bader followed with a two-out single, but both were stranded when Tommy Edman popped out to third.
Before the game, Marmol called the game a “must-win” and said the team was “ready to make a statement” in trying to sweep. He stood by those words after the game.
“Yeah. We have to go into those day games regardless if we won the first two with the mentality of, ‘Winning the series is not the goal,’” Marmol said. “It’s winning every game. Definitely stand by that. It’s a mentality we’ll carry on the entire season.”