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STL@MIL: Wainwright fans six in his return

Adam Wainwright called Friday's home opener the worst start of his career, but more than anything else, it served as a reminder for the Cardinals' ace.

Wainwright gave up eight earned runs in only three innings. It was the second shortest outing of his career and only one of two in which he's surrendered eight earned runs. As he continues to make his way back from Tommy John surgery, Wainwright could be discovering that rough outings like Friday's are simply part of the process in returning.

"I guess it is," he said. "That's not the way I was pitching in Spring Training. I was throwing the ball with a lot of life. Everything was very sharp early in the spring. Toward the end of spring -- I wouldn't call it a dead-arm phase -- but I've certainly got a little ways to go."

"He's doing his work. He's prepared. He has a good plan," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He's just the kind of guy we know will take that and will build on it."

Wainwright will try to take a big step forward Thursday afternoon as the Cardinals wrap up their series at Busch Stadium against the Reds, who are looking for answers as well.

The Reds had been pitching well this season before Wednesday's 11-1 loss, and right-hander Bronson Arroyo could prevent a similar outburst if he pitches like he did in his last outing -- 7 1/3 scoreless innings. Cincinnati's offense, on the other hand, has not been nearly as reliable.

To that end, manager Dusty Baker shook up his lineup for Wednesday's game. He dropped leadoff man Brandon Phillips to the cleanup spot, shifted Zack Cozart from second to first, bumped Drew Stubbs from seventh to second and dropped Scott Rolen from fourth to sixth. It didn't help Cincinnati score any more runs -- the Reds went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position -- but it did lead to nine hits and three walks on the night, something of an improvement considering their .205 team average entering the game.

"It's hard especially when you know your team can hit," Baker said. "I take pride in looking up there and seeing everybody's averages like the Cardinals are now. Their averages aren't going to stay as high as they are as a team. And our average isn't going to stay as low. Everything evens out."

Phillips knows why he's been struggling, pointing to a sore left hamstring that has him playing around 60 percent right now. And he believes the rest of his team will come around at the plate eventually as well.

"It's hard for me to hit off of my legs. My presence in the lineup is cool. I can get key hits when I need to. My timing is off a little bit," Phillips said. "When it comes to everyone else, I don't know how they feel when they're in the box. You can only go off of production and we're not getting key hits in key situations. We're not having good at-bats. I believe in this team. We've been through it all. When it rains it pours and right now, things aren't going our way."

Reds: Hitless streak cools Bruce after hot start
• Right fielder Jay Bruce started the season by bashing three homers in three games to kick off a strong first week, but he's slowed down considerably since then. Bruce entered Wednesday's game on a career-long hitless streak -- 0-for-19 -- before rapping a single in his first at-bat. He finished the night 1-for-4.

"That's frustrating him," Baker said. "He wants to be more consistent and not hot and cold. There are certain players like that and certain players that it takes a while to figure out how to remain consistent. Nobody remains hot all the time."

• Before giving up 14 hits and 11 runs Wednesday night -- eight of which came off starter Mat Latos -- the Reds' pitching staff had been dominant. Entering that game, they were 2-5 despite a 2.88 ERA, and the bullpen posted a 1.73 ERA during that time.

Cardinals: Matheny confident in Holliday's approach
• Matt Holliday endured another rough night at the plate Wednesday, going 0-for-5 with a strikeout. That brought his average to .182. But manager Mike Matheny maintains that there is nothing wrong with his left fielder's approach. Despite the low average, Matheny believes Holliday is hitting the ball as well as anybody on the team.

"That ball he hit to left field [for an out on Tuesday], I'll guarantee was one of the hardest balls hit in the Major Leagues this year. That ball was absolutely killed," Matheny said. "Sometimes the results just aren't a great indicator."

So what does the manager tell a player like Holliday when he's stuck amid this kind of stretch?

"You're going through a test right now," Matheny said, "so stick with it."

• Carlos Beltran continued his hot start Wednesday night, hitting his team-leading fifth homer, driving in two runs and scoring two more. Acquired this offseason via free agency, Beltran is batting .341.

Worth noting
• With Wednesday's victory, the Cards clinched their fifth series win of the year. They have yet to drop a series in 2012.

• The Reds are two wins shy of 10,000.

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