ST. LOUIS -- To channel his vintage self in Monday afternoon’s 3-1 win over the Giants, Adam Wainwright had to watch his vintage self.
Over the past week, Wainwright asked Cardinals video coordinators Chad Blair and Ben Bultmann pull video from his best seasons -- 2009 and '10, and '12-14 -- so he could re-watch some of his best games.
“Just kind of rechanneled that focus that I had, that attack mentality I used to have,” Wainwright said. “I had sort of gotten away from that over the last couple of starts, and today I wanted to attack. Try to be me.”
Two of the games Wainwright watched Sunday night were from '09 and '10 against the Brewers and Reds, respectively. He pitched seven scoreless innings in both, and when he watched the games, he saw himself locked in and attacking hitters.
On Monday afternoon, he did the same.
Wainright gave up four hits and zero runs to the Giants across seven innings, walking zero and striking out one. It led the Cardinals’ to their 19th win in their past 23 games -- and four wins in their past five games over a three-day span -- which kept them in first place in the National League Central.
Another quality start was exactly what the Cards needed as they approach the end of the regular season looking to make the postseason for the first time since '15. Wainwright has been in this spot before. His message to the team as the division and NL Wild Card races heat up is to focus on winning the game at hand each day.
“This is going to be a cluster of really important games. ... It’s going to be a whirlwind,” Wainwright said. “The key to September is staying focused and staying within yourself and making sure we do the little things right that we’ve done all year. That’s the key, not to let the moment overtake you. This is getting ready for October, but we’re not in October yet. You've got to get there.”
Monday also represented a start that Wainwright needed in a season of inconsistencies. A week ago against the Brewers, Wainwright only made it through 3 2/3 innings in 90 pitches. On Monday, he made it through seven on 96 pitches and got better as the game went on. After a 16-pitch first inning and a 20-pitch third, Wainwright’s final two frames were his most efficient, when he threw 16 pitches for his final six outs.
“That was the key was getting back into what I do best, which is controlling my pitches and controlling my body,” Wainwright said. “Driving those corners. Putting them on the fence and making quality pitches. Saw a lot of soft contact today, had two deep fly balls, but other than that, the ball was controlled pretty well.”
“He was good at what he does,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He slows you down, speeds you up, gives you a lot of different looks. We just couldn’t do anything with him."
Wainwright was backed by an early lead from the Cards’ offense -- which included Kolten Wong’s third triple in as many days -- and held onto it for his third scoreless outing of the year and first since July 14.
The only thing that wasn’t vintage Wainwright on Monday was his season-low one strikeout. Instead, he relied on weak contact and the defense behind him. Wainwright registered just two swings and misses, both on his curveball. But he had 23 called strikes, 13 foul balls and 24 balls in play that were handled by the defense.
“They’re ready to make plays,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said about the defense. “Just all around, well-played defense that gets you off the field and makes them earn anything they get.”