Waino's 126-pitch outing stifles Cubs in sweep

Wong's great grab finishes off veteran righty's 8 scoreless innings

June 3rd, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- On ’s 126th pitch of Sunday’s game, with two outs and two runners on, flew.

Running down a fly ball in right field, Wong made a leaping, over-the-shoulder grab on a hit that, according to Statcast, had an expected batting average of .940.

It ended the frame, along with Wainwright’s eighth scoreless inning at Busch Stadium. The catch put the final bow on a defensive performance that came up big for Wainwright’s two-hit outing in the Cardinals’ 2-1 win and a series sweep of the Cubs.

The 37-year-old Wainwright threw the most pitches he’s thrown since Aug. 23, 2013, when he threw 128, and the second-highest in the Majors this year (A’s Mike Fiers, 131). The decision to let Wainwright go into the eighth was perplexing, especially when he issued his career-high seventh walk and a base hit with one out.

But it worked: Wainwright struck out Kris Bryant for the third time, and Wong made the clutch catch to strand the two baserunners.

"You don't see many pitchers like him,” Cubs shortstop Javier Baez said. “Everybody now is about throwing hard and getting you to chase balls out of the zone. Wainwright today, we know he doesn't throw very hard. He's a great veteran. He was just spotting his pitches and pitching around the zone. All the spin that he threw, he got us to chase. He had a good plan today."

Whether Wainwright (5-5) would continue after the seventh was based on Cardinals manager Mike Shildt looking Wainwright in the eye and trusting that the right-hander had enough left.

“I don’t do [that] very often, my job is to make the decision, and I’ve never been a talk-out-of-it guy,” Shildt said. “But I did want to take his temperature, and he looked right at me and said, ‘I got plenty of gas left.’ I said, ‘All right, keep the pedal down.’”

After Wong made the catch, Wainwright punched his hand into his glove, let out a yell and pointed to Shildt as the team ran off the field.

“I said, ‘That was great positioning. I appreciate you trusting me,’” Wainwright said. “He looked at me, and I think he saw something today that I was out there competing as hard as anybody else was going to compete. And he trusted me, and he believed in me, and that means a lot to me. That does a lot for a pitcher’s confidence.”

The last Major League pitcher with eight-plus innings, no runs and seven-plus walks was the D-backs’ Edwin Jackson on June 25, 2010, in his no-hitter. The last Cardinals pitcher to do so was Kurt Kepshire against the Expos on Sept. 26, 1984.

Three double plays helped Wainwright erase his walks. The first was a heads-up play by first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to throw out Anthony Rizzo at second, and Wainwright sprinted to first to get Baez out to end the first inning. The next two came on lineouts -- one to Wong and one to a leaping Paul DeJong.

“When a guy is going out there and giving what he has, it definitely brings your awareness up,” Wong said. “That feel of wanting to do whatever you can to help him get out of there.”

Shildt’s managerial touch affected more than just Wainwright’s outing Sunday. There were two other key decisions Shildt made that helped the Cardinals return the favor of sweeping the Cubs, who swept St. Louis last month, and continue a four-game winning streak.

Rookie catcher Andrew Knizner was in the starting lineup after being called up from Triple-A Memphis on Friday in place of an injured Yadier Molina. So it was Wainwright, making his 297th career start, pitching to Knizner, making his first Major League start.

“[Knizner] worked really well with Adam, was prepared, was able to take that preparation to slow the game down and did a fantastic job,” Shildt said. “I figured he was going to get a shutout and walk by Yadi and [Matt Wieters] like, ‘Really?’ But no, he did a great job.”

Shildt’s decision in the ninth inning to take Jordan Hicks out after the Cardinals closer walked Willson Contreras and gave up a single to Jason Heyward with one out was also important. Instead of letting Hicks try to get out of it, Shildt turned to John Gant, who forced two groundouts and notched his third save.

“Johnny has done a nice job for us,” Shildt said. “Jordan will be fine. Couple of nights -- two days in a row and a day off, maybe not as sharp. Wanted to get a different look.”