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Are we witnessing a Wainwright renaissance?

Veteran eating innings, paving way for Cardinals' staff
@LangoschMLB
May 11, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- With each quality start Adam Wainwright makes -- and there have been a team-high five so far -- the more his renaissance is looking less like a fluke and more likely to last. Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Pirates overshadowed the job Wainwright did to minimize Pittsburgh’s

ST. LOUIS -- With each quality start Adam Wainwright makes -- and there have been a team-high five so far -- the more his renaissance is looking less like a fluke and more likely to last.

Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Pirates overshadowed the job Wainwright did to minimize Pittsburgh’s opportunities. He held the Pirates to four hits after allowing a leadoff homer and would have pitched into the eighth if not for the Cardinals’ need to pinch-hit for him in an effort to generate offense.

The last time Wainwright completed seven innings was April 11, 2018.

“Last year it was how do I survive? How do I find a way to get through five [innings] for this team?” Wainwright said. “This year my attitude is back to making pitches, executing pitches and seeing how far you can go. When I’m at my best, my whole career, when I was healthy, was the team knew that I was going at least seven. They knew it. The bullpen had a day off. I’m not changing my expectations.”

Wainwright has been the steadiest member of the Cardinals’ rotation through the season’s first six weeks. He’s thrown one-third of the team’s 15 six-plus-inning starts and has held opponents to three or fewer earned runs in six of eight appearances.

The key to that success has been increased and improved usage of his four-seam fastball, a pitch off which opponents slashed .545/.530/1.000 a year ago. This season, they’re hitting .250/.247/.542 off it. Wainwright is also going to the pitch more frequently (14 percent) than he did in 2018 (10 percent).

Simultaneously, Wainwright has reduced the reliance on his sinker and is throwing his curveball at a higher rate (39 percent) than he has in any of his previous 13 big league seasons. He generated 10 called strikes on that curveball on Friday.

“It’s just a totally different year for me,” Wainwright said. “Last year, there was nothing I could do about it. I tried every different way to do things -- throwing sidearm, 60-mph curveballs, all kinds of things. But right now, I’ve just got to not be satisfied with what’s going on. I just have to keep going out there and grinding and making pitches, and at the end of the year, we’ll see where things stand.”

Martinez prepping for an encore
Carlos Martínez, who threw 11 pitches (nine strikes) in a scoreless inning for Triple-A Memphis on Friday, will continue his rehab work with the club by making another appearance for the Redbirds on Sunday. That will be Martinez’s fourth relief outing in the eight days since he began a Minor League rehab assignment. He has yet to allow a run.

After Sunday’s work, the Cardinals will look to challenge Martinez with a multiple-inning appearance and/or back-to-back outings before activating him from the 10-day injured list. Manager Mike Shildt said “it’s not unreasonable” to expect Martinez back during the team’s next homestand, which runs from May 21-26.

Jenifer Langosch is a senior content manager at MLB.com. She previously covered the Pirates (2007-11) and Cardinals (2012-19). Follow her on Twitter.