ST. LOUIS -- Ryan Sweeney did not remember facing Adam Wainwright before, probably because there was nothing memorable about his three at-bats in a game on June 19, 2010 when he was with the Oakland Athletics.
A flyout, groundout and groundout were the result of those at-bats, but Sweeney had forgotten about that three-year-old game when he came to bat in the first inning for the Chicago Cubs Tuesday night.
Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals ace, who was trying to become the first pitcher in the National League to reach 11 wins, had just allowed back-to-back two-out doubles to Nate Schierholtz and Alfonso Soriano, staking the Cubs to a quick lead.
Sweeney has faced enough good pitchers in his career to know that sometimes the first inning is when they are the most vulnerable.
“Schierholtz got that hit and that kind of started the inning,” Sweeney said. “Soriano came up with a huge hit too, and hitting is contagious. We just got on him early, and I was thankful that we did. A guy like that will bear down and then we can’t get any runs.”
Sweeney made certain the Cubs got more than the one run, as he followed the two doubles with his second home run of the season, the first allowed by Wainwright to a left-handed batter this year in 200 at-bats.
Cody Ransom, starting at first base for the resting Anthony Rizzo, followed with another homer and the Cubs had matched their best first-inning output of the season. They also scored four runs in the first on April 14 against the Giants.
The four runs in the inning also equaled the total that Wainwright had allowed in the first inning in his 14 starts this season.
“Two outs and nobody on you are not thinking about four runs,” said Cubs manager Dale Sveum. “Two doubles and two home runs. He was a pitch away I think to Soriano from getting out of it with nothing, and Soriano came up with a big double. Big hits in that inning.”
Wainwright, who has not defeated the Cubs since Sept. 24, 2010, retired 15 of the next 16 hitters after Ransom’s homer before Sweeney doubled in the sixth.
“Obviously he knows how to pitch,” Sweeney said. “He was moving the ball in and out, and his slow curveball keeps you off balance. I just watched video, seeing what he likes to do to other left-handed hitters. Later on when I got the double it was off a cutter too. I was trying to look over the plate for a heater, but the umpire was calling the cutter in, so I just tried to pull it.”
The two home runs marked the first time the Cubs had hit more than one in a game this month.