Time-tested Waino-Yadi battery sets record that may never be broken

Cardinals duo makes AL/NL history with 325th start together

September 15th, 2022

ST. LOUIS -- There are times, like on Wednesday when Cardinals franchise fixtures Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina teamed together to make some history, that manager Oliver Marmol is reminded of the not-so-great moments when the pitcher and catcher were forced to persevere, reinvent themselves and find ways to keep chugging along this path toward historical greatness.

Remembering the moments when the 41-year-old Wainwright and the 40-year-old Molina defied the doubters, ignored the drumbeat of Father Time’s ominous warnings and pushed on with the weight of a franchise on their shoulders, makes nights like this even more special, Marmol said. MLB’s youngest manager was drafted in 2007 -- the first season that Wainwright and Molina started a game together. On Wednesday, Marmol was on hand to witness history as Molina and Wainwright made their 325th start together as batterymates, passing Tigers greats Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan for the NL/AL mark.

“I think this record is pretty darn cool because I don’t see anyone coming close to touching it again,” Marmol said. “When you can be in the record book and know that it’s never going to be touched, that’s pretty darn cool. Just to be able to have the career that Yadi’s had behind the plate with the same team -- that’s a lot of years catching. And then Waino, to be able to come close to matching those years … to get to 325, that’s a pretty cool record.”

Wainwright and Molina's special night was punctuated with the Cardinals' 4-1 win over the Brewers in front of 46,459 at Busch Stadium. The veteran pitcher picked up his 11th win of the season, the 195th of his career and the 106th in St. Louis through the years. Molina had the go-ahead RBI single in the second inning, and their longtime teammate, Albert Pujols, tallied his 2,200th career RBI with an eighth-inning double.

“In the first inning, I had first and third, one out and a very tough hitter [Hunter Renfroe] up, and I thought, ‘You know, I’m getting out of this because we’re supposed to win today,’” Wainwright said of the pep talk he gave himself on the mound. “Usually I feel like we’re going to get out of them anyways, but tonight I really felt like we were getting out of it because we were supposed to win this game, and we did.”

Wainwright and Molina, teammates for the past 18 seasons, are already the most successful battery in NL/AL history. They have combined for 213 team wins, 11 more than Hall of Famer Warren Spahn had with catcher Del Crandall for the Braves.

Afterward, in the Cardinals’ clubhouse, the team passed out champagne bottles adorned with the block-lettered 325 and the Wainwright/Molina logo. Players, coaches and staff toasted as owner Bill DeWitt Jr., team president John Mozeliak and Marmol spoke about the legacies of the two fixtures of the franchise. And, in his postgame media session, Wainwright sat on a podium adorned with the “Best Buds” cans of Budweiser beer featuring the likenesses of the Cardinals pitcher and catcher on them.

Wainwright and Molina teamed together with a game-opening strike taken by Brewers star Christian Yelich, a move Wainwright called “classy.” Two pitches later, Wainwright struck out Yelich looking on a curveball. Later, after Wainwright allowed hits to Willy Adames and Rowdy Tellez and walked former teammate Kolten Wong, the righty pitched out of the first-inning jam by getting Andrew McCutchen to tap back to the mound. McCutchen, a close friend who broke up Wainwright’s no-hit bid in early August, is one of the competitors who has had the most success against the Cardinals’ ace through the years with three home runs. On Wednesday, Wainwright fooled McCutchen with a high fastball to induce the comebacker.

That first-inning escape earned Wainwright, Molina and the Cardinals a standing ovation. Their first ovation of the night, however, came several minutes earlier when Molina and Wainwright walked in from the bullpen to the dugout. Thousands of mobile phones were thrust into the air pregame and during the first inning as fans looked to record the historical moment.

“It was a lot to manage, honestly, early on, because the crowd was so awesome, making me get constant chills and making me tear up,” said Wainwright. “I had to manage my adrenaline because it wanted to go through the roof. 

“Usually when I get to the dugout, I’m laser-focused on my approach to the first batter and trying to get into the right mental space, but they were playing that cool video on the board,” Wainwright continued. “I thought, ‘They’re probably not going to play any more cool videos that I can take in, so I might as well enjoy it for a minute or two,' so I did that.”

To commemorate the special night, Molina wore a special catcher's mask with Wainwright's No. 50 and Molina's No. 4 painted on the sides. On top of the mask was a photo of them congratulating one another over a large, block-style No. 325.

“It’s such a great feeling to reach that number and to be a part of that [most starts] list and to be on top of that list,” said Molina, who teamed with Wainwright for a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play to end the fourth inning. “Amazing, crazy [support from the fans]. I looked around all night and to see everybody cheering and clapping, it was great. Emotionally, I was on top and it was so great to see.”

Wainwright pitched around plenty of traffic in his outing -- afterward he referred to it as “a small village, ummm, a big village on the basepaths.” He worked out of bases-loaded jams in the first and fourth innings to keep the Brewers off the board. Wainwright was lifted after five innings and 98 pitches with a 3-1 lead. He allowed just one run on eight hits and two walks while striking out three.

As has so often been the case when Wainwright has started a game, Molina came through in a big spot offensively to help his good friend’s cause. Molina, who homered twice last week when he and Wainwright tied the record, had a line-drive single in the second inning to plate rookie Brendan Donovan. Molina’s hit gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead and put Wainwright in position to potentially garner the victory.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell marveled at the longevity and durability that Wainwright and Molina have shown while being Cardinals stars for nearly two decades.

"It's incredible. The privilege to be teammates that long, from a former player's perspective, is probably the coolest thing about this," Counsell said. "They've been a battery where they rely on each other so much, get to know each other so much and help each other be successful in the field. It's really cool. To be teammates for that long, it's truly incredible and certainly worth celebrating."

Marmol, a member of the Cardinals’ organization for the past 15 years, has seen Wainwright and Molina at their heights and at some of their lowest moments. Marmol said he was reminded of 2018 when Wainwright was struggling through elbow pain that he thought might end his career. Even this season, Molina left the team for a six-week period while battling through right knee soreness and a battered psyche. Marmol said he is convinced that the partnership and friendship with Wainwright is one of the things that led to the catcher leaving his native Puerto Rico and returning to the Cardinals.

“There’s a couple of things that played into it, and that [Wainwright friendship] was a big one. It’s meaningful to him,” Marmol said.

“With Waino, I remember sitting in San Diego and he was throwing every bit of 82 [mph], and the conversation was, ‘I think I’m done,’” Marmol recalled. “To go from that to what we’re seeing now and what they will accomplish together, it’s pretty meaningful. To have those types of careers, there’s a certain level of adversity you have to face and overcome. Most just face it and don’t overcome it.”

Like their 18-year bond on and off the field, Wainwright and Molina’s record set on Wednesday will likely never be broken because of everything that has to fall into place for such a record to be reached. Molina and Wainwright never looked to leave, jumped into each other’s arms after the 2006 World Series win and leaned on one another in times of despair.

“Hopefully it will never be broken,” Molina said. “It’s just a great feeling to be at the top of the list. And to do it with Waino, a great human being, it’s amazing.”

Added Wainwright, who was put into a laundry cart, wheeled into the shower and doused with various consumable liquids: “I belong here, this is where I belong and where I should have been. And this is where Yadier belongs and has been. This is just home for us, and we’re happy to do this here.”