ST. LOUIS — Adam Wainwright grimaced at the notion that fatigue factored into an unsatisfactory follow-up to perhaps the most dominant effort of his career.
The Cardinals’ ace was surprised to get lifted after six innings of a 5-2 loss to the New York Mets on Thursday that prevented a four-game St. Louis sweep.
Wainwright threw 120 pitches in a two-hitter against the Rockies in his last outing, holding them hitless until one out in the eighth. He matched a season low with 87 pitches against the Mets.
“I think they get conscious of that, but it had absolutely no effect on me whatsoever,” Wainwright said. “I was feeling fine.”
Manager Mike Matheny thought Wainwright, who left trailing 4-1, "was fighting from the beginning."
"He was pretty good," Matheny added, "but you could see he was labouring."
Wainwright (5-3) entered the game second in the National League with 58 2-3 innings but felt comfortable carrying that load. He didn't think he had his best stuff but thought it should have been good enough to win.
"I made a couple mistakes over the plate that ended up costing us runs," Wainwright said. "The ones they were supposed to hit, they hit.
"If I make my pitch, most of the time they don't get hits."
Daniel Murphy and David Wright combined for five hits and three RBIs against Wainwright and the Mets snapped a six-game losing streak.
Jonathan Niese (3-4) allowed two runs on six hits in 7 1-3 innings, his longest outing of the season. He ended his four-game losing streak over five starts since a win at Minnesota on April 12.
Murphy went 4 for 4, doubled twice and walked, and totalled 10 hits in the series. He's also 6 for 9 against Wainwright. Wright doubled, singled and drove in two runs.
The Cardinals have never swept the Mets in a four-game series at home, almost always playing three-game sets.
Pete Kozma and Carlos Beltran had an RBI apiece for the Cardinals, who lost for just the third time in 15 games.
Wainwright faltered after allowing one hit with four strikeouts the first time through the order. He allowed three earned runs in six innings, and is 1-4 with a 7.29 ERA against the Mets for his career.
Niese had permitted 15 runs in 8 1-3 innings in his previous two starts, but kept the Cardinals off-balance.
"It's so early in the season, I don't care what his numbers are," Ty Wigginton said after going 0 for 3 in a rare start. "He could have a zero and we could go out and score 10 runs."
Niese is 3-1 in five starts against the Cardinals. He had three strikeouts and two walks to make him even on the year with 24 strikeouts and walks.
Bobby Parnell finished for his fourth save in six chances.
Newly signed Mets centre fielder Rick Ankiel appeared to get a late jump on Kozma's apparent routine fly ball and couldn't make a diving catch for an RBI double that put the Cardinals in front in the second.
Jordany Valdespin beat out a bunt with two outs in the Mets' third and scored on a headfirst slide on Murphy's double. Wright's single put the Mets ahead and he started two double plays against cleanup man Allen Craig at third.
Murphy and Wright doubled to start the sixth to give Niese a two-run cushion. Wright later scored on Lucas Duda's sacrifice fly.
Ankiel was credited with a ground-rule double leading off the seventh on a ball down the third-base line that appeared to glance off an usher's leg before hitting a railing. He was thrown out at second off the carom, and replays showed the usher barely made it out of the way.
NOTES: Jaime Garcia (4-2, 2.88) opposes Wily Peralta (3-3, 5.40) as the Cardinals open a three-game series against Milwaukee Friday. Matt Harvey (4-0, 1.44) goes for the Mets to open a three-game series in Chicago, opposing Edwin Jackson (1-5, 6.02). ... Mets 1B Ike Davis struck out four times and was 0 for-5. ... 1B umpire Tim Timmons missed a half-inning early in the game, returning before the bottom of the fourth. No reason was given for the absence. ... Since 2000, the Mets are 16-31 against the Cardinals in St. Louis. ... Mets starters had been 1-7 with a 5.72 ERA the previous 13 games. ... Seth Maness, who got the win Wednesday after allowing Ankiel's tying two-run homer in the seventh, is the Cardinals' only player since 1900 to earn three victories in relief in his first five career appearances. Jason Simontacchi won his first three relief appearances in 2003 after beginning his career in the rotation.