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ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Nervousness about Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright's elbow ahead of Saturday's Game One of the National League Championship Series ballooned into concern by the time the St. Louis hurler was removed in the fifth inning.
Yet while he did not look sharp in the 3-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants, Wainwright said he was feeling better and optimistic going forward.
Wainwright, whose surgically repaired right elbow flared up during his first start against the Dodgers in the NL Division Series, went four and two-thirds innings giving up six hits and three runs -- two earned -- while issuing three walks.
After the game, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said there was no indication that Wainwright's elbow was a problem.
Wainwright said the elbow was "not 100 percent" but "100 percent better than it was last time I pitched ... so the next time I pitch I expect it to be better."
The right-hander, who was 20-9 with a 2.38 ERA this season, said his struggles stemmed from mechanical issues.
"I'll correct those things and be ready next time," he said.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina said Wainwright's stuff looked better than it did against the Dodgers, especially his cutter and curveball.
"He looked good for me," Molina said.
Wainwright started the game strong as the Giants went down in order in the first inning.
But in the second inning, Pablo Sandoval doubled on a deep fly to right center that Randal Grichuk caught against the wall on the run but dropped. Wainwright soon had loaded bases after a walk to Hunter Pence and a single to left by Brandon Belt.
Wainwright struck out Brandon Crawford before Travis Ishikawa singled to score Sandoval. Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner then lined out to the shortstop, and it looked like Wainwright might get out of the inning with little damage done.
But Gregor Blanco hit a ground ball that third baseman Matt Carpenter muffed, allowing a second run to score.
The next inning, Wainwright gave up another run after a potential double play ball was mishandled by second baseman Kolten Wong and was removed from the game in the fifth inning after 98 pitches.
Carpenter said poor defense and lack of offense had hurt Wainwright. "At the end of the day, you can't win if you don't score."
Editing by Larry Fine/Nick Mulvenney