BOSTON -- Technology provided an extra circle of hell for Adam Wainwright. Done after five innings of throwing baseballs on Wednesday night, finished, toast, yanked after surrendering five runs on five hits and what he saw as a sequence of personal embarrassments in the first World Series start of his eight-year major-league career, he was able to watch all of those personal embarrassments all over again.
After he clunked though the vintage tunnel from the visitors' dugout at Fenway Park to the vintage visitors locker room, rather than take a shower -- so much for that familiar image, the knocked out pitcher sent to the showers -- he backed up the television broadcast of the first game of the 2013 World Series. While the rest of the game was played on the field, as the Boston Red Sox finished off an 8-1 romp over the St. Louis Cardinals that had the local patrons giddy, the Cardinals starting pitcher was able to watch the moments that he felt lost the game.
Those would be his moments.
"I've already seen every pitch all over again," he would report, still in his baseball suit when the cameras and tape recorders came to surround him at the end. "There's a lot of time to do that when you get knocked out in the fifth inning. I'm already looking at what I did wrong."
What he did wrong was everything.
That was his opinion when he was in the game. That was his opinion when he watched the game on the flat screen.
"Our starting pitcher let us down," he said. "I was the reason we lost. I just didn't pitch well."
He felt off his form from the first pitch he threw to Red Sox leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury. He was not sure why. He had felt strong when he took the mound, maybe too strong. Mary J. Blige had sung the National Anthem. The three Congressional Medal of Honor winners and Yaz had stood together for the first pitch. The four jets had rattled windows and faint hearts on their flyover. First game of the World Series! He would power his way past the Red Sox, throw some heavy, perfect pitches. Wouldn't he?
A tidy, efficient hurler during his 19-9 regular season as the Cardinals' ace, 219 strikeouts matched against only 35 walks, he wound up walking Ellsbury on a 3-2 count. He never walks the leadoff hitter. Except tonight. His control on all of his pitches -- the sinker, the curve, the cutter, the four-seamer, the change-up, all of them -- was missing.
He resembled the neighborhood athlete, pretty competent on most days, but suddenly feeling on this one odd day as if the basketball was a foreign object in his hands, as if the golf clubs in the bag didn't work, the football wouldn't travel in a spiral, the puck wouldn't stay on the stick, as if the sport had been invented about five minutes earlier. There was no rhythm in Wainwright's body, no syncopation.
"I've felt this way before, but not many times," Wainwright said. "I could count the times on one hand I've come out and pitched as bad as this."
The second Red Sox batter in the first inning, Shane Victorino, flied to left, but the third batter, Dustin Pedroia, singled to center. This brought designated hitter David Ortiz to the plate, runners on first and second. Ortiz grounded to second baseman Matt Carpenter, perfect double-play ball, salvation. Wainwright would be out of the inning, maybe sit down and figure out how to cope with his strange night and…not really. Carpenter flipped to shortstop Pete Kozma who came across the bag and made a perfunctory stab at the ball with his glove and didn't catch it.
Second base umpire Dana DeMuth made an incorrect out call as he watched Pedroia touch of the base more than Kozma's miss of the ball, but a rare, perhaps unprecedented overrule of a judgment call by the other five umpires in the crew made Pedroia safe. The bases were loaded, one out. Wainwright, who waited out the arguments by both managers, plus that umpire board meeting out by shortstop ("Will the third base umpire please read the minutes of our last meeting?") was back into his funk. Deeper.
"We would have gotten at least one out, maybe the double play," he admitted, "but I still had a chance to get us out of the inning. And I didn't. I was making adjustments. I had to take a little off everything. The speed wasn't working. I had to pick spots. That's not the way I pitch."
The damage came from Mike Napoli, the next batter. With the count two balls and no strikes, Wainwright working out his adjustments, Napoli lined a double to center field that scored all three base runners. So much for any chance of a pitchers duel, Wainwright against John Lester of the Red Sox. So much for the night.
"That was a horrible pitch," Wainwright said. "Just horrible. I was trying to go down and out and I went up and in. Everything I threw was garbage."
Two more runs came home in the second inning. He backed off a pop-up in front of the mound, a further embarrassment, when catcher Yadier Molina also stood and watched as the ball landed between them. ("That's the first time I've ever done that," Wainwright said. "I always go after the ball when I call for it.") Three shutout innings might have followed the bad first two, but the shutout innings didn't matter. The bad first two killed the night.
"Tonight, I lost this game in minutes," the pitcher said. "All the things that happened can be attributed to me going out and setting a terrible tone."
In other corners of the locker room, other players were taking parts of the blame. Kozma, the shortstop, front and center, said that if he had made the play as he crossed the bag and the inning ended, the game could have been entirely different. His fault. Second baseman Carpenter said that some credit should be given to Jon Lester. Not a lot of Cardinals had a lot of hits, seven total, only five against Lester. Everybody should hit more. Center fielder Shane Robinson said the entire game was not played 'The Cardinal Way,' which meant good defense and smart baseball.
Promises were made everywhere were to do better, to recover. A grim statistic quickly surfaced, as grim statistics will do in the World Series, that the team that has won the first game of the Series has gone on to win the whole thing in nine of the last 10 years, 14 of the past 16. This did not stop the promises.
"I can fix this," Wainwright, the 6-foot-7 right hander, said about his personal performance. "I've already started. Right here. I've gone over every pitch I threw."
This is professional baseball. Professionals know what to do. He said he would look at some tapes of earlier personal successes during the season, but also would look again at the bad pitches from Wednesday night, all 95 of them. He figured, in fact, he would watch each pitch "five or six" more times.
"Then," he said, still in that baseball suit. "I'll probably kill myself."
See? The healing already had begun.
He could make a joke.