CHICAGO -- Turns out Adam Wainwright is, in fact, mortal. The Cardinals' ace looked like the God of Pitching in April, going 5-1 with a 1.20 ERA with a National League-best 25-inning scoreless streak heading into his first start of May. But the dominant right-hander from April looked like anything but on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs scored all six of their runs against Wainwright, including five in the first three innings of their 6-5 win. His ERA rose from a minuscule 1.20 to 2.16 and would still be below 2.00 if not for his two starts against the Cubs this season. Wainwright has allowed 10 earned runs in 12 innings against Chicago (a 7.50 ERA) compared to just two earned runs in 38 innings (0.48 ERA) against everybody else.
This against a team that ranked 12th in the NL in runs scored entering the game.
"I left a lot of balls in the middle of the plate," Wainwright said. "I did that last time I pitched against them, too, so I don't think there's a coincidence -- or I don't think there's a meaning behind it, it's just a weird coincidence.
"I looked at my tape and there's some things that were off a little bit today with my delivery and we'll just make adjustments, because you're not going to be perfect every time and today, it was just a bad day, and I didn't give my team much of a chance."
Wainwright was one of only three pitchers to own a perfect career mark at Wrigley (6-0), now tarnished by his first and only bad outing of the year. It was his first career loss in 17 games (12 starts) on Chicago's north side. He struggled with his command, causing him to fall behind and consequently leave pitches over the plate.
"Well, there were certain pitches that I just didn't have a great command of," Wainwright said. "My curveball was kind of sporadic, in the zone and out of the zone, which is pretty rare for me. Today was not my day and I accept that and take responsibility for today and just move on."
St. Louis nearly let Wainwright off the hook with a late rally. Jhonny Peralta cut the Cubs' lead to 6-5 in the eighth with his team-leading seventh home run, a two-run drive into the basket in center field off reliever Justin Grimm. Matt Holliday followed with a single off the glove of second baseman Emilio Bonifacio, but he was left at first as the potential tying run.
Peralta is 10-for-28 (.357) with four doubles and three homers in his last seven games.
"He's going to hit his extra-base hits, there's no question," manager Mike Matheny said of Peralta. "We need to get him going and keep going, but right now he's got a good swing going. He's laying off a lot of the borderline pitches and the ones way out of the zone. He's got a nice approach, nice and short."
The Cubs led off the game with three consecutive hits and took a 2-0 lead on Anthony Rizzo's two-run single. In the previous at-bat, Luis Valbuena doubled just fair down the right-field line on a ball that could have been called either way. From Matheny's point of view, the ball was foul. He came out to talk with the umpiring crew, who huddled and ultimately decided the call stood.
The fair-or-foul call was not reviewable because the ball hit the ground in front of the umpire. Only balls that are hit right at the umpire or beyond them are reviewable. Matheny acknowledged that it was a difficult call, and that the replays he saw made it look less definitive than what he saw in real time.
"He saw where it hit, which was right on the line, which makes it real difficult for me to understand how it could stay fair coming from a left-hander's bat, you know 10 feet up the line," Matheny said. "But I'm glad they got together at least to try and see if there's any discrepancy, but that's his call and that's what he saw and we had a feeling that was going to hurt, putting guys at second and third with nobody out, that's a big swing."
"You'd have to have some pretty good camera angles to see if the ball crosses over the top of the bag."
Chicago again threatened quickly in the second with a single and double, but Wainwright retired the next three via a groundout and a pair of strikeouts.
Wainwright made it three straight strikeouts by getting Valbuena to open the third, before running into more trouble. A pair of walks -- which Wainwright called "the difference in the game" -- sandwiched around a single loaded the bases for Ryan Sweeney, who brought home a run with a groundout to second. Welington Castillo made it 5-0 with a two-run double to right.
The Cardinals answered back with a pair of runs with two outs in the third on Matt Carpenter's RBI single and Peralta's double.
"Early two runs and then that's it, a double play ball and I'm thinking in my brain, 'That's all their getting,' Wainwright said. "Next inning, second and third, no outs, get out of that, we score two runs, I'm thinking, 'Back in the game.' To go out and give out three runs is very unlike me, and to just hand the game back over is something I normally don't do a whole lot of."
St. Louis cut the Cubs' lead to 5-3 in the fourth on Starlin Castro's two-out throwing error that scored Yadier Molina, who doubled with one out. Wainwright finally picked up his first 1-2-3 inning in the bottom half, But Rizzo homered to lead off the fifth for a 6-3 Cubs lead.
"I was down 0-2, battling off of him, and he could throw any pitch there, and luckily, I got good wood on it," Rizzo said.
Rizzo's homer was the final tally that helped drop the Cardinals back to .500. Offensive consistency has been lacking in the early part of the season, though Matheny was encouraged by the Cardinals' near comeback. And few could have predicted the Cubs' offense would be the one to give Wainwright his first shelling of 2014.
"To have that kind of day and still work out of the trouble that he did just once again talks about the kind of pitcher that Adam Wainwright is, but it's a frustrating day when he knows our guys are putting some offense up for him, we just can't stop them," Matheny said. "But he limited the damage and figured out ways to keep us in it, and we had some chances."
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.