Waino excellent in possible final Busch start

Veteran gets one run to work with in matchup vs. Scherzer

October 14th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Getting to face off against Nationals ace Max Scherzer is like Christmas, Cardinals right-hander said a day ahead of their matchup Saturday afternoon in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.

The two are not similar in pitching styles -- Scherzer still has an upper 90s fastball, while Wainwright relies more on a pitch mix that includes his signature curve -- but they are, above all things, both tremendous competitors.

When they squared off Saturday in a 3-1 Cardinals loss that dropped St. Louis into an 0-2 series hole, there was just one thing missing for Wainwright.

“I saw where he talked about the matchup and it was like Christmas for him,” St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said. “We just didn’t put any runs under the tree for him. But he did his part to wake up bright-eyed and ready to go and enjoy the opportunity and the moment, which you knew he would.”

It was a repeat of an all-too-familiar script for both the Cardinals and Wainwright recently. For the second straight game, the Cardinals’ offense was silent for much of the game as their starter pitched well enough to get a win but instead took a loss.

The game also featured a near repeat of Wainwright’s last outing, when he also pitched outstandingly, only to have his offense score just one run in a loss in Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Braves.

“He did great,” first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. “That’s what we expect from him. It’s disappointing to not be able to score some more runs. He gave everything he had, and it’s pretty obvious if you score one run, you’re not going to win many games.”

Wainwright nearly matched Scherzer, which is saying something, as Scherzer had a no-hitter through six innings.

Both pitchers fanned 11, and the only difference through the first seven innings was a Michael A. Taylor homer to lead off the Washington third.

“Curveball is sharp, and fastball command is good,” said Wainwright, who allowed three runs, seven hits and a walk in 7 1/3 innings. “Cutter was a little sloppy today. That’s what Taylor hit out. That was my only mistake in the middle of the plate in a while.”

Wainwright struck out Taylor to lead off the eighth before things went sideways for him.

Former Cardinal Matt Adams delivered a single off the wall in right. and Trea Turner followed with a single to right-center, which left Shildt with a decision to make -- stay with Wainwright or turn to lefty to face the left-handed hitting Adam Eaton.

“What goes into it, a guy’s got 11 strikeouts, is still hitting his spots,” Shildt said of sticking with Wainwright. “So you take your chances with a guy that’s in the moment, in the competition, that’s pitched as well as he has. He more than deserved that opportunity.”

Shildt also tried to get Wainwright through eight innings in his start against the Braves before finally turning things over to Miller with the bases loaded. That ended up working out, as Miller got out of the jam. Then allowed three runs in the ninth, and St. Louis came away with the loss.

This time, the Cardinals could not get out of the eighth without losing the lead. Eaton hit a grounder past a diving Goldschmidt and down the right-field line for a two-run double.

Eaton was 0-for-3 against Wainwright to that point and admitted that the right-hander, along with catcher , had him confused all game long, even down to that final pitch.

“Everything I was thinking, they did the opposite,” Eaton said.

So, thinking that Wainwright would come with a fastball with a 3-2 count Eaton went against that and sat on a curveball, which Wainwright threw.

“That’s the pitch I’m trying to throw to Eaton there, and I got a ground ball,” Wainwright said. “He just put good wood on it and placed it perfectly.”

That would spell the end of the night for Wainwright. As he walked off the mound, the sellout crowd at Busch Stadium gave him a long, standing ovation.

“That was awesome,” Wainwright said. “I love these fans we have. They’re doing a great job right now of making me feel loved here in the city. I wish I could have put up a zero for them in the eighth there.”

The 38-year-old veteran’s contract is up at the conclusion of the playoffs, and he has not said whether he intends to pitch next year. That was not at the forefront of his mind, though, after the game because he believes he’ll be back on the same mound for Game 6.

In order for that to happen, the Cardinals will need to win at least two of three games in Washington next week.

“I didn’t feel like today was my last day,” Wainwright said. “I feel like this team is going to get me back home and give me a chance to, hopefully, close [the series] out. We’ll see.”