After struggling as the starter for the National League in last week's All-Star Game, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright missed a chance to become the first Cardinals starter in 45 years with a sub-2.00 ERA over his first 20 starts of a season, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Entering Tuesday's outing against the Tampa Bay Rays with a 1.83 ERA and 12-4 record through 19 starts, Wainwright allowed six runs (four earned) over 4.2 innings, raising his ERA to 2.02 while dropping his record to 12-5.
Hall of Famer Steve Carlton was the last pitcher to post a sub-2.00 ERA through 20 outings for the Cardinals, delivering a 1.81 ERA over his first 20 starts of the 1969 campaign. Carlton finished with a 17-11 record and 2.17 ERA that season, ultimately losing out on the NL Cy Young award to the New York Mets' Tom Seaver, who claimed the first of his three career honors for best pitcher in the league.
Despite his career-best numbers up to this point, Wainwright could be subjected to a fate similar to Carlton's if he fades even slightly down the stretch.
Reigning Cy Young winner and Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has shaken off an early-season injury to return to dominant form, boasting comparable traditional numbers to Wainwright's while besting the Cardinals' right-hander in both strikeouts and walk rate.
Adding to Kershaw's case, there is some reason to expect regression from Wainwright over the season's final two months. While he has performed as one of the league's top starters by any metric, the 32-year-old's 2.59 fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark offers a better approximation of what his ERA might look like going forward.