ST. LOUIS — Right now, Adam Wainwright is the weak link in the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation. He's not about to blame it on making a rapid return from reconstructive elbow surgery.
"I'm sure there's a little bit to it, but it's a crutch I'm not going to stand on," he said after giving up two home runs in a 6-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday. "It's an excuse."
Wainwright won 20 games in 2010 and 19 in 2009 but missed all of last season. The right-hander returned 13 months after the procedure and has lost twice at home, giving up three homers and eight runs in three innings in a home-opening loss to the Cubs.
Manager Mike Matheny thought Wainwright (0-3) was closer to his old self on Thursday, when he allowed four runs in five innings. But the manager also believes too much has been expected too soon.
"That's a radical surgery, and I think we've made light of it to some point because so many guys have had it and bounced back," Matheny said. "He's just got to be patient with himself and realize it's not going to come as easily as it used to.
"And that will pass, and he'll be just as he always was."
It can't happen soon enough for Wainwright, who had never started a season 0-3, either.
Wainwright allowed four runs in five innings, leaving him with a 9.88 ERA, and has allowed multiple homers in consecutive starts for just the second time in his career. The other four members of the rotation, Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn, all are 2-0.
"I think the takeaway for me today is you remember the feeling of losing three games in a row, especially the last two," Wainwright said. "That's not a feeling I want to keep having.
"I'm the only guy that's not giving our team a great chance to win right now, and I take that personally."
Bronson Arroyo worked eight strong innings, and the Reds broke loose with three home runs to avert a three-game sweep.
Brandon Phillips, Ryan Ludwick and Drew Stubbs homered. The Reds had connected just once in their previous nine games and began the day with a .211 batting average.
Phillips hit his first homer and Ludwick hit his second in a span of three at-bats in the fourth. Stubbs, who was 3 for 5, hit his first off Victor Marte in the seventh.
Matt Holliday's three-run homer in the sixth was the only damage against Arroyo (1-0), who struck out five and walked none while scattering five hits. Arroyo threw just 90 pitches.
Joey Votto added an RBI single in the Reds ninth off Fernando Salas. Sean Marshall struck out the side after allowing a leadoff hit in the ninth for his second save in second chances.
Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay left after the seventh with a sprained right shoulder, likely from bumping into the wall trying to snare Stubbs' homer. Earlier Thursday, general manager John Mozeliak said first baseman Lance Berkman would be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left calf injury and that utilityman Skip Schumaker would be activated from the 15-day disabled list from a pulled right side muscle sustained in spring training.
"If you can't run, you can't play," Berkman said after the game. "It's not really that tough of a decision."
Jay said X-rays showed no significant damage and said he was day to day.
"I was about to make my jump and just miscalculated my steps," Jay said. "It's not too bad. Tomorrow is going to be a bigger day."
Phillips got his first RBI with one out in the third; Jay Bruce followed with a single; and Ludwick hit the next pitch beyond the visitor's bullpen.
Arroyo allowed two hits in the first five innings, but the Cardinals opened the sixth with three straight hits. Rafael Furcal and Jay singled before Holliday, who had been 3 for 26 on the homestand, hit his third homer to cut the deficit to 4-3.
The NL Central-leading Cardinals are 9-4. A sweep over the Reds would have given the franchise its best start to the season since it was 13-3 in 1982, a World Series title year.
NOTES: The Reds are 3-21-2 in 26 series in St. Louis since the start of 2003. ... RHP Homer Bailey (0-2, 5.40) starts for the Reds in the opener of a three-game series at Chicago on Friday. St. Louis' Lance Lynn (2-0, 1.50) makes his fifth career start at Pittsburgh. ... Wainwright previous allowed homers in consecutive starts May 5 and 10, 2009, surrendering two each against the Phillies at home and at Cincinnati. ... Marshall has seven strikeouts in 4 1-3 innings. ... Rafael Furcal had two hits for the Cardinals and is 6 for 10 the last two games.