(Busch Stadium) Game on the line in the eighth inning, two runners on base, pitch count soaring, and all eyes checking the St. Louis Cardinals dugout to see when Mike Shildt would leave his chair to head to the mound to relieve Adam Wainwright. But there the manager sat. Unflinching. In his body language and belief in his starter.
“It just got to be about, you know what, this is the guy,” Shildt said. “He pitched great. Big heart. Good stuff. Great stuff. And just stayed with him.”
A strikeout and a web gem from Kolten Wong ended the inning without a run crossing the plate.
Wainwright finished with a line of 8 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 7 BBs, and 8Ks. He threw a total of 126 pitches (70 strikes).
Shildt had approached Wainwright in the dugout after the seventh inning to see what was left in the tank.
“I did want to take his temperature and just kind of take a look,” Shildt said. “He looked right at me and said ‘I’ve got plenty of gas left.’ I said alright, keep the pedal down.”
And that he did, as Wainwright worked through a one out walk and single to strike out Kris Bryant for the third time in the game before Kolten Wong raced into right field, leaped, and snagged a line drive from Anthony Rizzo to end the eighth inning.
“What a great play,” Wainwright complimented. “There’s not a better defensive second baseman in baseball. There’s just not, that’s the truth of it. He’s an amazing fielder and we love having him behind us.”
After a yell of joy on the field, Wainwright thanked Wong in the dugout. He also had a big hug for his manager.
“I appreciate him trusting me right there,” Wainwright said. “It is so easy to go to some of our great arms in the bullpen especially. It’s so easy to know that ‘you know what, he did a pretty good job, let’s get that bullpen in there’ but he looked at me and I think he looked at me and I think he saw something that I was competing as hard as anybody else was going to compete. And he trusted me and he believed in me and that means A LOT to me. I’ll tell you what, that does a lot for pitcher’s confidence.”
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— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) June 2, 2019
Trust from his manager. Trust in his defense. But that was just part of the trust that went into this start for Wainwright.
“After the first inning, Goldy came over to me and said ‘dude, your stuff is great tonight. Trust your stuff. Go out there and trust it. Believe in it, it’s good,’ It’s good to hear that,” Wainwright shared. “All week long, Jack Flaherty was in my head, ‘hey dude, you struck out ten people last game. You are not old. You are not over the hill. You can still make pitches.'”
“It wasn’t even a pep talk,” Flaherty explained. “We love him. He punched out ten the other day and didn’t walk a guy. Was just like ‘dude, you don’t have to prove anything to any one of us, we know you’ve got your freaking stuff. It’s great. You don’t punch out ten with nothing.
“Not in here, but on the outside, everybody is looking at him and questioning what are you going to get every time he goes out. We know. You don’t punch out ten against a really good lineup, in Philly, like that with nothing. It was just, ‘you’ve got to trust your stuff and be you.’ It’s not anything that goes on out there, it’s between the ears. He’s unbelievable when it comes to that. Today was another sign of that.”
A familiar voice and former teammate also provided encouragement to Wainwright recently.
“Chris Carpenter, when he came into Philly, he sat me down for 20 minutes and we had a great talk. He just said, ‘Dude, your stuff is good. Man, go trust it.’ So I’m hearing that word–trust, trust, trust, trust, trust. Now I’ve just got to go out and make pitches.”
Likewise, Wainwright had trust in catcher Andrew Knizner, who was making him MLB debut behind the plate.
“We have a long track record, actually,” Wainwright reminded with a laugh. “I made more starts to him than I did Yadi last year, I think.”
Knizner caught rehab assignments for Wainwright in Springfield (AA) and Memphis (AAA) last year.
“I think we have a pretty good scoreless streak going,” Knizner said. “It’s his game. I’m just back there trying to catch, steal a couple of strike and main thing, just try to stay on the same page with Waino and get outs.”
“I was proud of him, he did a great job back there today,” Wainwright said. “I told him, there were four or five calls we got outs on today that you put the sign down and I went ‘I wouldn’t normally do that, but let’s try it. I like that idea, that’s a good idea.’ And it ended up working. We ended up punching a few guys out on pitches I wasn’t even thinking in the zip code. He has a lot of poise and he did a great job back there.”
The 126 pitches in a scoreless outing from Wainwright is the most by a 37-year old in MLB since Derek Lowe in 2012.
The Cardinals are off on Monday and will continue their homestand on Tuesday against Cincinnati.
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports