ST. LOUIS -- Since Adam Wainwright doesn't want to use his recovery from Tommy John surgery as a reason for his uncharacteristically slow start, his manager gladly will instead.
Wainwright allowed seven hits and four runs in five innings Wednesday afternoon, dropping to 0-3 for the first time in his big league career in the Cardinals' 6-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
The Cardinals have just four losses on the season and three of them belong to Wainwright, who has made three starts this season since missing the entire 2011 season while rehabbing from the elbow surgery last February.
"He wasn't as sharp as he wanted to be again," Matheny said. "It's just part of this injury, part of this rehab process. You have to feel your way through it and figure out how you're going to pitch on days when you just don't feel quite right.
"He's continuing to make good progress and we know what's there, but he's just never had to deal with this before. That's a radical surgery and I think we've made light of it because so many guys have had it and bounced back but it's pretty consistent that you're just going to have days where you don't feel quite right and you can't really explain it. It comes with a year without throwing."
Wainwright allowed eight earned runs for just the second time in his career in a three-inning start in the home opener last Friday. He responded with three shutout innings Thursday before finding trouble in the fourth.
Brandon Phillips launched a one-out homer to left, Jay Bruce followed with a single and Ryan Ludwick smoked a two-run shot to left to give the Reds a 3-0 lead in the span of about four minutes.
Wainwright allowed two singles and another run in the fifth before departing with 88 pitches and just 15 outs.
"It wasn't great but certainly better than last time," Wainwright said. "I made some strides in a few areas but I've certainly got a ways to go in other areas. I'm not exactly excited about my outing today, but I did some things that were positive today that I'll build off of."
Wainwright allowed two or more home runs in consecutive starts for just the second time in his career. Hes allowed five home runs in three starts this season after not allowing his fifth home run until his 13th start in 2010.
The right-hander entered the game with the fourth-lowest ERA in baseball since 2007 but actually saw his 2012 ERA drop from 11.42 to 9.88 with Thursday's outing.
Wainwright has allowed 18 hits and 15 runs in 13 23 innings this season, but wasn't ready to blame his slow start because of his year-long absence.
"It's a valid question, but I'm just in a funk," Wainwright said. "You can say whatever you want to about surgery and all that, but my arm feels fine. I'm just not throwing it fine.
"I'm sure there's a little bit to it, but that's a crutch that I'm not going to stand on. That's an excuse."
Wainwright has lost three straight starts for just the second time in his career. He lost four in a row during a rough stretch late in the 2010 season.
The All-Star is the only Cardinals starter to have a loss this season with Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Kyle Lohse combining for an 8-0 mark.
But looking to get back in the win column for the first time since Sept. 24, 2010, Wainwright will make his next start at the same place he started that day -- Wrigley Field. And he pledges to keep getting better.
"You remember the feeling of losing three games in a row, especially the last two and that's not a feeling I want to keep having," Wainwright said. "We've got five very good pitchers right now I feel like starting games and I'm the only guy that's not giving our team a great chance to win right now. I take that personally.
"I'm going to stay on it and keep grinding. I think the only way I'm not going to break out of this is if I don't show up to the park trying to get better every day. I will not let myself do that."