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From rookie year on, Wainwright prolific in big games

Ace, who will start Game 3, has shown character since being closer on '06 title team

LOS ANGELES -- Dodger Stadium figures to be rocking when Game 3 (live on TBS at 7 p.m. CT) of the National League Championship Series begins Monday night.

And as far as Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright is concerned, that's just great.

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"I don't know how many people are here, but it's a lot of fans, bigger than most stadiums, I think, and very loud," said Wainwright, who pitched at the Dodgers' home in the 2009 NL Division Series and allowed one run over eight innings. "I love that though. I mean, the louder the better. That plays right into my hands."

Noise and the pressure of pitching in big games is something that Wainwright has dealt with really since his rookie year of 2006.

At that time, he was working out of the bullpen and in the playoffs with the Cardinals needing a closer, he filled that role. It was Wainwright who was on the mound to close out the World Series for St. Louis that year.

"When you think about what he did in 2006, he made that club as a rookie, and as it went on, he became our closer and didn't faint," then-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "So he's the real deal."

Tale of the Tape: Game 3
2013 regular season
Overall: 30 GS, 14-8, 3.00 ERA, 49 BB, 154 K Overall: 34 GS, 19-9, 2.94 ERA, 35 BB, 219 K
Key stat: Opponents hitting .067 with bases loaded Key stat: Won 10 road games in regular season
At Dodger Stadium
2013: 15 GS, 7-4, 2.32 ERA
Career: 15 GS, 7-4, 2.32 ERA
2013: Did not pitch
Career: 5 GS (6 G), 1-2, 5.16 ERA
Against this opponent
2013: 1 GS, 1-0, 0.00 ERA
Career: 1 GS, 1-0, 0.00 ERA
2013: 1 GS, 0-1, 3.86 ERA
Career: 10 GS (13 G), 4-4, 3.10 ERA
Loves to face: Carlos Beltran, 0-for-3
Hates to face: Matt Holliday, 2-for-3
Loves to face: Mark Ellis, 1-for-12, 2 K
Hates to face: Andre Ethier, 10-for-33, 3 HR
Game breakdown
Why he'll win: Had success against Cardinals in regular season Why he'll win: Won his last three postseason starts
Pitcher beware: Showed nerves in postseason debut Pitcher beware: Dodgers are dangerous at home
Bottom line: Forget about rough outing in NLDS Bottom line: Set the tone early on the road

Wainwright moved into the rotation the following year and has been a mainstay ever since.

As he developed as a starter, Wainwright watched and learned from then-ace Chris Carpenter, who had watched and learned from Matt Morris, who had watched and learned from Darryl Kile, who ... well, with the Cards, you can go on and on.

That same confidence and desire to be in pressure situations that served him so well as a closer pushed Wainwright to reach for more and more big-game starts.

"He wanted to be the guy," La Russa said. "Even when Carpenter was the guy, he kept saying, 'I'm next in line. I'm ready.'"

With Carpenter ailing the last few years, Wainwright has stepped into that ace role. Along the way, he's shown that his performance in the 2006 postseason was no fluke. In 15 playoff games (six starts), Wainwright is 4-0 with 2.03 ERA and four saves. Those numbers include a pair of dominating starts against the Pirates in this year's NL Division Series, in which he won Games 1 and 5.

Because they needed him for that Game 5 against the Pirates, the Cardinals had to go with a pair of rookies in Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha in the first two games of this series.

Matched up against two of the best pitchers in baseball -- Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw -- the rookies prevailed, and now the Cardinals sit in a perfect spot. They are up 2-0 and they've got their best pitcher going in Game 3 with a chance to all but seal the series.

Doing double duty
Pitchers to both win and save a clincher
Pitcher First clinching win First clinching save
Adam Wainwright 2013 NLDS Gm 5 2006 NLCS Gm 7
Derek Lowe 2004 ALDS Gm 3 2003 ALDS Gm 5
Mariano Rivera 2003 ALCS Gm 3 1998 WS Gm 4
Francisco Rodriguez 2002 ALCS Gm 5 2005 ALDS Gm 5
Duane Ward 1993 WS Gm 6 1993 ALCS Gm 6
Jeff Reardon 1992 NLCS Gm 7 1987 ALCS Gm 5
Jesse Orosco 1986 NLCS Gm 6 1986 WS Gm 7
Allie Reynolds 1952 WS Gm 7 1950 WS Gm 4
Herb Pennock 1923 WS Gm 6 1932 WS Gm 4

It almost seems too good to be true.

"No, it's true," Wainwright said. "It's true. We're up two nothing. But the thing that I know is that team over there is very dangerous and they're going to want it. And they're going to be hungry when we get to L.A. They're going to want to go out there and give those L.A. fans a good show.

"So it's going to be very tough. There's no question about it. That team is very good from top to bottom, pitching and hitting. But so are we, and we're very confident that we can go over there and get the job done. And we have a lot of confidence in that happening. But we've got to do it one game at a time, I know that. We're not looking forward to the end of this series. We're going to look forward to Game 3."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

St. Louis Cardinals, Adam Wainwright