NEW YORK -- What’s the old saying? Age is just a number. Right-hander Adam Wainwright is 40 years old and showed the Mets on Monday night at Citi Field that he is still the master on the mound. He pitched six shutout innings and helped the Cardinals blank New York, 7-0.
With the victory, their fifth in their last six games, the Cardinals moved a half-game behind the idle Reds for the second National League Wild Card spot.
"All these games are just so important. It feels like a playoff game. We have to win all of them," Wainwright said. "We can’t have any slip-ups the rest of the way. We have to go out and play really good baseball down the stretch against a lot of very good teams. … We have to bring our best every night."
The Mets had opportunities to score off Wainwright, but the right-hander managed to get out of trouble every time. Take the first inning; New York had the bases loaded with two outs, but Jeff McNeil struck out on three pitches to end the threat.
The scenario reminded Wainwright of his famous moment from Game 7 of the 2006 NL Championship Series against the Mets. Like Monday night, the Mets had the bases loaded with two outs, but Wainwright, then the closer, struck out Carlos Beltrán to win the pennant.
"I like nostalgia," Wainwright said. "I felt like all the Mets fans wanted to see me in the bases loaded situation. I felt like they wanted to see me throw two curveballs and a changeup and get him out. I just felt that’s what the Mets fans wanted to see and I gave the people what they wanted."
Wainwright retired the side in order just once, but the Mets left seven runners on base against him. The veteran improved to 16-7 and lowered his ERA to 2.88 as he makes a push for the NL Cy Young Award, one of the few major honors he has yet to take home in his long career.
“Those two, Wainwright and [catcher Yadier] Molina, they do a good job changing sequences,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “I believe that you’ve got to track one pitch, especially the pitch that he’ll throw in the zone the most. But [Wainwright] was able to mix a lot of different pitches in the zone in different at-bats. He changed sequences. They take good reads on guys' swings. I’m saying ‘they’ because it’s the battery, for me. Those two guys just pair up so well."
But Wainwright wasn’t even the oldest starting pitcher in Monday’s game as the Mets started 41-year-old left-hander Rich Hill, who wasn’t as successful. He pitched five innings and allowed three runs on six hits.
Hill had a tough time retiring Paul Goldschmidt, who had two hits and drove in two runs. Goldschmidt drove in his first run of the game in the third inning, when he singled to center field, driving in Tommy Edman. Two innings later, Goldschmidt hit a solo homer, his 25th of the season, to give the Cardinals a three-run lead.
As he has throughout his career, Molina continued to be a thorn in the Mets’ side, doubling and scoring St. Louis’ first run in the second then hitting an RBI single and scoring in the Cards’ four-run ninth that put the game to bed.
“Great at-bats. Very important to add on,” manager Mike Shildt said. “We need to continue to score. That’s what we did tonight -- stayed hungry.”