ST. LOUIS -- This was to be a day highlighted by celebrations.
Indeed, there were some early, as the Cardinals hoisted a World Series championship banner and showcased World Series trophies and Hall of Fame players during a stirring pregame ceremony. And there were moments to celebrate later, when the offense flashed its potential during its biggest inning of this young season.
Falling flat, however, was the celebration of Adam Wainwright's return.
Making his first home start since 2010, Wainwright had hoped that Busch Stadium would be the stage on which he'd show St. Louis that he was back to old form. But the Cubs spoiled the ideally-laid plans by knocking the right-hander around and quickly out in a start that ranks among the worst in Wainwright's career.
Chicago then held on for a 9-5 win in front of a sellout crowd of 46,882.
"I felt disappointed for me, but I felt more disappointed for all the fans who showed up today," Wainwright said afterward. "I really felt like I did not deliver what they came to see. I know that I will. But I didn't do it today. I will be very good for this team. I just wasn't today."
By the time Wainwright delivered that apology, he had already begun dissecting. Out of the game after only three innings, he immediately pulled video from as far back as '07 to see if he could pinpoint why his pitches lacked crispness and late movement. With a critical eye, he also reviewed Friday's outing to see if he had been tipping his pitches.
He found no evidence of that, nor did he discover anything specific to his mechanics that explained why all went so wrong in the home opener.
"My body felt fine. My arm felt fine. There just wasn't a lot of life on my pitches," Wainwright said. "That happens sometimes. It's never happened quite like that."
Wainwright found himself surrounded by Cubs baserunners immediately upon taking the mound. Chicago strung together three consecutive hits to take a one-run lead before Wainwright recorded his first out. Three pitches after getting that out, Wainwright watched Ian Stewart take him deep with a three-run blast.
The Cubs extended that lead to eight two innings later behind Bryan LaHair's first career grand slam, which seemed to enjoy a favorable carry from the wind in left-center field.
"I know he's had a tough time his first couple starts, but he's still getting his arm back in shape, game shape," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Spring Training is a whole different thing. He's just getting back in shape, but that curveball is still pretty devastating."
All eight runs were charged to Wainwright, who had allowed that many only once previously. That came in his eighth career start, back on May 15, 2007, at Dodger Stadium. That started lasted 2 2/3 innings, putting it in additional rare company with this outing. They mark the only two times Wainwright has been unable to complete four innings in a start.
Positivity did emerge from that 2007 loss, though, as Wainwright followed it up with wins in 11 of his final 24 starts. He posted a 2.96 ERA over the rest of the year. This outing is poised to prompt plenty more reflection, too. One thing it won't elicit is panic.
"We've seen so many positive things from him this year, and he's been so far ahead of what the expectations were, so we know there are a lot of good things yet to be seen," manager Mike Matheny said. "Today is just one of those days where you have to step back and gather yourself and figure out what has to be different."
There remain no concerns about his arm or decreased velocity. After throwing a consistent 92-93 mph fastball early in spring, Wainwright has hardly sat higher than 90 mph with the pitch in his two starts this season.
Matheny noted that the weather -- it was 51 degrees at first pitch -- could have affected Wainwright's ability to get fully loose.
"Today," Wainwright added, "was the perfect storm of horribleness."
The Cardinals' eight-run hole grew to nine when the Cubs tallied a fourth-inning run off Victor Marte. Their bullpen otherwise shut down the Cubs, who entered the series on the heels of an eight-run victory over the Brewers on Thursday.
The Cardinals did peck away at Chicago's lead, beginning with a five-run fifth off starter Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija, who fell an out short of pitching a complete game in his season debut, allowed four of those runs to score with two outs.
"I think I got a little complacent with how I went the first four innings, and I was looking to have another quick inning," Samardzija said. "They're a good hitting team."
Jon Jay drove home the first run before consecutive singles from Carlos Beltran, David Freese and Yadier Molina pushed home two more. Matt Carpenter, filling in for an injured Lance Berkman at first base, capped the frame with a two-run triple. That was his second hit of the day.
The Cardinals actually outhit the Cubs, 12-10, though they didn't have the benefit of scoring in bunches via the long ball. Like Carpenter, Jay and Beltran finished with multihit performances. St. Louis finished 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
"They really came swinging the bat and were able to put runs on the board early," Beltran said. "We tried to get something going, but we fell short."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.