Adam Wainwright doesn't really understand what's going on with him and the Reds.
For the second start in a row, the Cardinals' top starter went to the mound looking to get his 16th victory and instead ended up just trying to make it through a few innings. Shin-soo Choo and Joey Votto homered off him on Monday, leading Cincinnati to a 7-2 victory.
It felt as puzzling as it appeared.
''The last time, it was a matter of me leaving too many ball in the middle of the plate,'' Wainwright said. ''Today, they hit some good pitches. I feel very strong. I've had some good games against them in the past. It's a head-scratcher, to be honest with you.''
The third-place Reds are trying to break the Cardinals' season-long dominance. St. Louis has won the last seven series between the teams. The Cardinals are 10-6 against Cincinnati this year.
The Cardinals took two of three in St. Louis last week, the only loss coming when the Reds tagged Wainwright (15-9) for nine runs in a career-low two innings. They had his number again on Monday, piling up six runs and 10 hits in six innings.
What's going on here?
''He's searching right now,'' manager Mike Matheny said. ''He doesn't have the same feel he had earlier. As he went on today, he got better. His breaking ball had more bite.''
Even the Reds seemed a bit surprised by their back-to-back drubbings of the Cardinals' top starter.
''That's a real good pitcher,'' manager Dusty Baker said. ''We have nothing but respect for Wainwright. He's not the guy that you would exactly choose to face twice a week. It's a funny game.''
Mat Latos (14-5) allowed only four hits while going the distance for the first time this season. He gave up a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly by Matt Holliday in his fourth career complete game.
''We never could get that big of a rally started,'' said Matt Carpenter, who had a double. ''It helped that he was able to get a big lead early.''
It's an important series for Cincinnati, which now trails the Cardinals by 2 1/2 games. St. Louis opened the day tied with Pittsburgh for first place. The Reds maintain a comfortable lead for the final NL wild-card spot.
The last time the Cardinals visited Great American Ball Park, they won by scores of 13-3 and 15-2 during a one-sided series that left the Reds embarrassed. This one started much better for them.
Wainwright fell to 5-9 career against Cincinnati. In his last two starts against the Reds, the right-hander has given up 18 hits and 15 runs in only eight innings. He's 1-3 in four starts against Cincinnati this season with a 7.77 ERA.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina came out of the game in the fifth inning because of a sore left wrist. He was activated off the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 15 after missing 14 games with a sore right knee.
''It's something he's had before, but we haven't heard much about it,'' Matheny said. ''It popped up today.''
The Reds quickly got to Wainwright. Choo opened the first with a single and scored on Ryan Ludwick's two-out single. Ludwick missed more than three months with torn cartilage in his right shoulder, but the left fielder is starting to get his swing back in shape. Ludwick has driven in a run in each of his last four games.
Zack Cozart singled home a run in the second, and Choo's two-run homer made it 4-0. Choo leads all major league leadoff hitters with 19 homers. He has three homers during a six-game hitting streak, which includes four multihit games.
Votto hit an up-and-away 1-2 pitch to the opposite field in left for his 21st homer in the fourth inning.
NOTES: Cardinals RF Carlos Beltran's back was still sore on Monday, prompting Matheny to keep him out of the starting lineup for a second straight day as a precaution. ''Instead of trying to push him through, we've tried to pay attention to how he feels,'' Matheny said. ''That should pay dividends in the long run.'' ... St. Louis 1B Matt Adams extended his slump to 0 for 14. ... The Reds called up OF Billy Hamilton and INF Neftali Soto and activated C Corky Miller off the 15-day DL before the game. ... Homer Bailey (9-10) tries to extend his winning streak - 4-0 in his last six starts - against the Cardinals' Michael Wacha (2-0), who makes his fifth career start.
Link to box score: Cincinnati 7, St. Louis 2
Link to game discussion at The Cardinal Nation message board