Waino ambushed by Rockies as 199th win proves elusive

August 5th, 2023

ST. LOUIS -- When a fan recently yelled a message of encouragement to , wishing him luck in getting two more wins for 200 in his storied career, the Cardinals' right-hander balked, saying that he had several more starts remaining and he planned on winning far more games than just two.

Another opportunity for Wainwright to move closer to 200 career wins came and went on Friday, when the 41-year-old pitcher struggled to close out innings and was hit especially hard by a Rockies club he has dominated through the years.

Stuck on 198 wins since beating the Mets on June 17, Wainwright surrendered nine hits and a season-high-tying seven earned runs in just three innings of work in a 9-4 loss to the Rockies Friday at Busch Stadium. On a night when he threw his second-hardest pitch of the season (89.8 mph) and had five strikeouts, Wainwright was infuriated that all seven runs he allowed came with two outs in the inning.

“I’ve just been plagued all year by not getting the job done with two outs, and it’s killing me,” said Wainwright, who allowed Rockies hitters to go 6-for-9 with two outs and has permitted a .446 average and .683 slugging percentage to opponents in such situations this season. “I’ve got to be better. I think I’m trying too hard to make a pitch with two outs and it’s cost me a couple of times. Stuff-wise, I was OK. I just didn’t put myself in the best situations, and I’ve got to be better with two outs.”

Wainwright entered the game with the lowest ERA (1.38) and the highest winning percentage (.923, 12-1) of any starter against the Rockies (min. 75 innings). His ERA against Colorado prior to Friday’s romp was the second-lowest of any starting pitcher against any one team (min. 13 starts) since divisional play began in 1969, trailing only Mel Stottlemyre's dominance against the Angels (1.22 ERA in 13 starts).

Lefty slugger  did all he could to try and bail Wainwright out by bashing two 400-plus-foot home runs that accounted for most of the Cardinals’ offense. Gorman, who was back in action after fouling a ball off the top of his right foot on Wednesday, registered a multihomer game for the fifth time in his career -- and the fourth time this season.

Gorman, 23, said he’s inspired every day by the positive approach and leadership that Wainwright brings to the clubhouse.

“When he’s in here, I want to go to war for him, whether he’s on the mound or not,” said Gorman, who pushed his home run total to 24 in his sophomore season. “He’s a guy that when he’s out there, no matter how he feels, he’s going to give it everything that he’s got for this team. I try to replicate that after seeing how successful he’s been for so long.”

After being slowed by a groin strain and enduring a sluggish start to the season, Wainwright returned early from another stint on the injured list two weeks ago and seemed poised to salvage the end of his final season. He limited the D-backs to four hits and two earned runs on July 24 and left the game with a 5-2 lead -- only for the Cardinals' bullpen to cough up the victory.

Five days later, Wainwright held his own against the Cubs, surrendering four runs over six innings, but failed in another bid to land win No. 199.

On Friday, it was pretty evident from the start that Wainwright didn’t have his best stuff when he walked leadoff hitter Jurickson Profar on five pitches and gave up a single to Ezequiel Tovar. After retiring the next two hitters, Wainwright yielded RBI hits to Nolan Jones and Elias Díaz.

Despite being at the tail end of a career that will almost certainly land him in the Cardinals Hall of Fame someday, Wainwright said he still has extremely high expectations for himself. He’s still confident that he will not only get to 200 wins, but that he will blow past that number with a strong finish.

“I want [fans] to have the same expectations [they] have always had for me,” said Wainwright. “That’s what I have. Whether that’s realistic or not, I’ll let everybody else decide. But I continue to take the ball and look forward to making the last out of the game. I’m going to do that before the end of this season, I promise you that.”