ST. LOUIS — When the Red Sox traded away most of their rotation last month, it was with the idea they could remake the roster and become contenders again in 2015.
But it also left the team with a young pitching staff that is hard to predict a performance from. As the Red Sox evaluate what they have, losses are going to mount.
There was another one on Thursday night. Kolten Wong homered twice and Adam Wainwright pitched seven strong innings as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Sox, 5-2, before a crowd of 44,570 at Busch Stadium.
Brandon Workman allowed three runs in the first inning and that was too much for the Sox to overcome, especially against a pitcher like Wainwright (14-6).
“I just didn’t come out sharp in the first inning. They got me today,” Workman said. “I got it going after that, threw well after the first. But the first inning was enough to kind of mess up the game.”
The 50-64 Red Sox have lost 12 of their last 15 games. They scored six runs in the three games at Busch Stadium, going 2 for 23 with runners in scoring position. That they managed to win one of the games was an achievement.
Workman (1-5) is 0-5 with a 6.04 earned run average in his last five starts. Nine of the 19 earned runs he allowed in those starts came in the first inning.
“It has happened a couple of times. That’s something I need to look at,” Workman said. “Maybe take a different approach out there in the bullpen, something to help me get more dialed in from the get go.”
Said manager John Farrell: “It’s kind of notorious in his career. . . . We’ve seen it this season and we saw it in his first appearance at the major league level in Seattle last year. It’s a matter of him getting in the flow of the game without allowing some runs to get on the board.”
Pitching out of the bullpen, Workman faced the Cardinals three times in the World Series and allowed one unearned run over 3⅓ innings. Those happy memories vanished quickly in the first inning as Workman threw 34 pitches and put five runners on base.
Leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter drew a walk and Wong singled. With one out, the Cardinals executed a double steal.
Workman struck out Matt Adams but could not escape the inning as Jhonny Peralta doubled to the gap in right to drive in two runs.
Oscar Taveras singled to drive in Peralta.
“It took him an inning to settle into some rhythm,” Farrell said. “They were able to bunch some hits together.”
The Red Sox stranded one runner in scoring position in the first inning and another in the second when Will Middlebrooks doubled with two outs before Workman struck out.
The Sox were 0 for 14 with runners in scoring position in the series to that point. But they broke through against Wainwright in the third inning.
Brock Holt and Dustin Pedroia led off with singles to left field. Mike Napoli, a late addition to the lineup when David Ortiz was scratched, singled up the middle with both runners in motion and Holt scored.
Xander Bogaerts struck out with Pedroia at third but rookie catcher Christian Vazquez singled to center. It was the 11th RBI in 16 starts for Vazquez.
Workman had retired nine straight and 11 of 12 before Wong homered to right field in the fifth inning. It was his eighth of the season.
Workman allowed four runs on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts over 5⅓ innings.
Wainwright set down 11 consecutive batters before Daniel Nava singled with one out in the seventh inning. Pedroia then drew a walk with two outs.
With their bullpen up, the Cardinals decided to leave Wainwright in to faces Yoenis Cespedes. The new Red Sox left fielder got ahead 3 and 0. He took a strike, fouled off a cutter, then took a curveball that was right over the plate to end the inning.
The pitch was so perfect that catcher Tony Cruz started running to the dugout before umpire Gary Cederstrom rung up Cespedes.
Wainwright allowed two runs on seven hits. He walked two and struck out seven.
“I thought we had a very good approach against Wainwright overall,” Farrell said. “He makes a big 3-2 pitch to Cespedes with a couple of men on. We continue to create a number of good opportunities. But that base hit with runners in scoring position . . .”
Wong extended the St. Louis lead to 5-2 when he homered to right field off Craig Breslow in the seventh inning.
With Andrew Miller traded to Baltimore, Breslow is the top lefty remaining in the bullpen and that could be a problem.
Breslow has allowed four runs on eight hits over 4⅓ innings in his last four outings and home runs in each of his last three. The last two home runs Breslow gave up were by lefthanded hitters.