'Good to feel good again': Waino twirls gem

39-year-old goes 8 1/3 dominant innings as Cards blank Rox, complete sweep

May 9th, 2021

Two starts removed from a complete-game loss, Adam Wainwright stood two outs away from the opposite. But then he conceded a single to Ryan McMahon. After Cardinals manager Mike Shildt raced out to the mound to boos and returned to the dugout to cheers before the ensuing at-bat to Charlie Blackmon, Wainwright accepted the reality at hand.

“I knew we had somebody warming up, and I knew if I didn't get [Blackmon], I knew I was probably out,” Wainwright said. “But I also knew that passing the baton was better than me being selfish and throwing one over the middle of the plate to their best hitter.”

Blackmon faced only one competitive pitch in the at-bat -- a 72.2 mph, 3-0 curveball called for a strike. One pitch later -- ball four -- Shildt was back out to remove Wainwright and hand the game to Ryan Helsley.

When Helsley induced a double play to seal a 2-0 sweep-clinching victory over the Rockies at Busch Stadium, Wainwright was first out to give the young reliever a bear hug. Then, he turned to do the same with catcher Yadier Molina, one of the day’s offensive catalysts, after the duo's 280th career start as batterymates.

The Cardinals’ Mother’s Day display was a microcosm of the season at large: their rotation “bulldog” shoved with 8 1/3 innings of three-hit ball; their future Hall of Fame catcher continued his miraculous offensive revival with a pair of doubles, the second of which drove in a run; and their new franchise cornerstone, Nolan Arenado, provided another marquee moment, lasering his first homer against his old team, a solo shot in the second.

“When you play with those guys on the field, you want to do everything you can to help the team win,” Arenado said of Wainwright and Molina. “... You just want to do everything you can, because you know they're going to give it their all every single time.”

The trio provided a multifront barrage against the Rockies, and one that was uncertain to come this season. At the end of the 2020 postseason, all three centerpieces of Sunday’s win were not members of the Cardinals’ organization. Wainwright and Molina needed to be re-signed, while Arenado was still in Colorado.

And it goes one further. Wainwright and Molina have long stated their desire to play as long as their health will let them. Years ago, Wainwright admits now, he felt his body gave up on him. Years later -- with a new workout regime, a new diet and new trainers to formulate a plan -- he's tied atop the MLB leaderboard with one complete game in 2021, and he nearly had another.

“It's good to feel good again,” Wainwright said.

And lest one forget Wainwright is set to turn 40 on Aug. 30.

“First of all,” Molina laughed, “what’s wrong with 40?”

No more fitting was the longed-for run support for Wainwright than off the bat of Molina, who drove in Arenado with a double in the fourth and pushed St. Louis' lead to 2-0. In his second game since coming off the injured list, Molina raised his OPS to a team-leading .997.

Any game Wainwright and Molina provide theatrics will be looked upon with nostalgic eyes this season, their futures uncertain past 2021. But it went one further for each on Sunday.

Molina’s mother, Gladys Matta -- along with other members of their family -- was in attendance for the Mother’s Day festivities, spending time in the Spanish broadcast booth with her one of her other sons, Bengie. Extra meaningful for Molina was showing out in front of his mother, admitting he doesn’t have many Mother’s Days left to play on, “maybe one or two more.”

“When we win games, that's what she likes,” Molina said. “She hates losing. She doesn’t like when I strike out, but she hates losing."

Mother’s Day wish granted.

Wainwright was playing for his wife, Jenny, who was at home recovering from a bout with COVID-19 that impacted the entire family. That included Jenny’s mother, who “put her life on hold” to help tend to the family. Wainwright admitted he was distracted in his last start, when he allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Mets.

Arenado had his parents at Busch Stadium for the second time this season. They saw their son continue his strong first season in St. Louis, doing so opposite Colorado third baseman Josh Fuentes, who is Arenado's cousin.

Arenado had plans in store with his mom to celebrate the full-circle career weekend, as well as to celebrate the Cardinals going 13-4 in their gauntlet of 17 consecutive days with a game ahead of Monday’s off-day.

“Probably going to have dinner,” Arenado said. “Whatever she wants to eat.”