Yadi, Waino key win in 300th start together

‘A special time’: Molina belts a grand slam as Wainwright logs an RBI knock

September 4th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- What does 300 starts look like? 

Truthfully, a lot like the first 299 -- in approach, mindset, performance and, most importantly, results. 

Adam Wainwright shoved, carving his way through six scoreless frames and then reluctantly handing the ball to his manager with an out recorded in the seventh. And Yadier Molina mashed, hammering a grand slam with his final swing of the game. Their historic start together on Friday night was grand, vintage and crucial. The 15-4 bashing of the Brewers at American Family Field resembled a quick flush of the Cardinals’ last defeat and an important victory to keep pace in the NL Wild Card chase.  

And it was unrivaled in the modern game, only the fourth battery in history to reach 300 starts together.

Top 5 pitcher-catcher batteries all-time (regular season):

  1. Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan (324 starts)
  2. Warren Spahn and Del Crandall (316)
  3. Red Faber and Ray Schalk (306)
  4. Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina (300)
  5. Don Drysdale and Johnny Roseboro (283)

"He's one of the best pitchers I've ever [seen]. One of the best pitchers I've ever caught,” Molina said. “I'm proud of him. It's a great honor to be a part of this and just to do it with him."

“When you see a player, you can tell when you look into their eyes if they're a winning player or not. You just can,” Wainwright said. “He's got that.” 

What does 300 starts sound like? 

Like 22 flutters of Wainwright’s trademark Uncle Charlie curveball, aiding his four strikeouts on the night before wonky defense chased him in the seventh. And still, rather evenly dispersing his 105 total pitches among his five different types of pitches, his first start at the age of 40 dropped his ERA on the year to 2.91. 

“I love it,” said manager Mike Shildt. “I'm a big art guy in this game.”

It also sounded like six especially booming cracks of the bat, with two homers by Nolan Arenado, the one from Molina and one more each from Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill and Edmundo Sosa, giving Wainwright the run support he’s enjoyed in bunches across his career. Wainwright helped himself in that department, scoring Molina with a bases-loaded single in the second inning. He’s driven in no teammate in his career more than he has Molina. 

“The 300, to be able to win today and Yadi to hit the grand slam, that was a special time,” Wainwright said. “And I got a knock. That was big.”

What does 300 starts feel like? 

By purpose, a lot like the first 299. 

That’s the mindset Wainwright and Molina have forced themselves to carry through their careers, never getting too high and not letting the sanctity of such a moment take away from their primary goal in mind. 

That start No. 300 came amid a win -- one that kept them just 1 1/2 games back of the Reds for the second NL Wild Card spot -- is what they celebrated most on Friday night.

“That felt like, you know, the other 299 times, I guess,” Wainwright said, before offering an admission: “I did get little [goose bumps] walking out of the first inning and the crowd, there was a bunch of Cardinals fans above the dugout.”

“That's what this is about,” said Shildt. “They're here for rings, and they're here to get victories.”

Behind Wainwright and Molina among active batteries are Carlos Martínez and Molina, with 121 shared starts -- a testament to the “staying power of Yadi,” Wainwright said. After them is the first non-Cardinal pair, Eduardo Rodriguez and Christian Vázquez of the Red Sox. 

Of any current players, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner (the latter formerly of the Giants, the former still a part of the club) may have been baseball’s last hope to track down Wainwright and Molina for the all-time batteries mark. 

"I talked to Buster Posey this year, and he said, ‘I can't believe this guy. He still catches every day,’” Wainwright recalled. “I said, 'I know. He's like the eighth Wonder of the World.'" 

Wainwright alluded the feat to Tim McCarver, the Cardinals Hall of Famer who was a longtime batterymate for two of the best pitchers from each side of the mound, Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton. Wainwright and Molina had to pass McCarver and Gibson’s franchise mark of 197 before 300 was even a smidgen within reach. 

“They’re two of the [greatest] battery in the history of the game, both individually and as a pair,” McCarver recently told MLB.com. “It's very illuminating to see what they've done together, just wonderful -- as a Cardinal fan or as a regular fan -- just to see them work together and work all these years together. It means a lot to the Cardinals, a lot to Cardinal fans and to them.” 

So what did start No. 300 look like? 

Truthfully, a lot like Game No. 1, when Wainwright, then a reliever, threw his first pitch to Molina on Sept. 23, 2005 -- also in Milwaukee. And it also looked a lot like start No. 1, when Wainwright got the win with seven innings of one-run ball thrown to Molina on April 6, 2006, in Houston. 

And then came 299 more. 

“He hasn’t changed. He trusts me a lot,” Molina said. “I trust him a lot, too.”