ST. LOUIS -- What the distant future holds for Adam Wainwright, neither he nor the Cardinals will say. Fact is, neither he nor the Cardinals know. When it comes to Wainwright, all of the larger questions remain uncertain: whether the 37-year-old will return next season, whether he'll even play at
ST. LOUIS -- What the distant future holds for Adam Wainwright, neither he nor the Cardinals will say. Fact is, neither he nor the Cardinals know. When it comes to Wainwright, all of the larger questions remain uncertain: whether the 37-year-old will return next season, whether he'll even play at all, whether Saturday marked his final start in a Cardinals uniform at Busch Stadium.
What they do know is that Wainwright is healthy. And that when healthy, he can still be effective. That much was plain to see long before Wainwright walked off the mound Saturday to a standing ovation, on the hook for four tough-luck runs. By the time the Cardinals rallied for a 5-4 win in 10 innings over the Giants, the veteran righty's latest effort had pushed the narrative to when -- not how or if -- he'll contribute next.
"I think we can put the speculation over whether he's going to start again to rest," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. "I'd love to see him in the playoffs pitching at Busch."
Though that could happen, the reality is Wainwright is not assured another regular-season game in St. Louis, where he's spent his entire career. His next start figures to come at Wrigley Field on the final weekend of the season. Whether there is a postseason game to start at Busch this October, and whether he starts it, are unknown. If there isn't, Wainwright, after years of arm trouble and at the end of a five-year, $98 million contract, is far from a lock be back.
But that's a possibility Wainwright said "didn't weigh on me at all," as he toed the rubber Saturday afternoon. And for much of it, he looked like his old self. Fresh off six scoreless innings last weekend against the Dodgers, Wainwright held the Giants largely in check for six more. Though he was eventually tagged with four earned runs after a series of bloops and two errors soured his line, Wainwright reasserted himself as an X-factor, not a nostalgia act, of the Cards' stretch run.
"That's probably the softest four runs I've ever given up. That was incredible," Wainwright said. "I know there was some rotten luck going on there, but I threw the ball well. I was probably one batter away from throwing seven innings with one run."
The numbers back up Wainwright's sentiment. Of the eight hits he allowed, none passed Statcast™'s 95-mph threshold as being "hard hit." The two that set up the Giants' three-run seventh registered at 83 mph (Hunter Pence single) and 68 mph (Alen Hanson single). Wainwright was also hurt by errors from Marcell Ozuna and Harrison Bader, the latter occurring on Aramis Garcia's game-tying single to center, and allowed Garcia to move up to second.
Wainwright struck out six, walked none and hasn't allowed a home run in either of his last two starts. He's struck out 15 -- and elicited 15 swing-and-misses with his curveball -- over those outings.
"He made quality pitches, that's why you're comfortable sending him back out there, comfortable giving him the moment," Shildt said.
Uncertainty cast aside, he's confident he'll have more moments in the ballpark he's always called home.
"Could have been [my last game at Busch], you never know," Wainwright said. "But maybe it's not, because I didn't feel like it was. I feel like I have a few more starts in the postseason here that are going to be pretty special."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.