ST. LOUIS -- If you look at the box score alone, Adam Wainwright had a solid, relatively normal start Friday night at Busch Stadium.He gave up just one run on four hits in five innings en route to the Cardinals' 8-5 victory over the Braves and his 12th win of
ST. LOUIS -- If you look at the box score alone, Adam Wainwright had a solid, relatively normal start Friday night at Busch Stadium.
He gave up just one run on four hits in five innings en route to the Cardinals' 8-5 victory over the Braves and his 12th win of the season.
But upon further examination, it's clear that something was wrong. The right-hander didn't register a pitch above 90 mph and did not strike out a single batter for the first time in a winning start since 2007.
Wainwright was forced to rely on changeups, sliders and curveballs as he dealt with a sensation in the outside of his right arm that he first felt during pregame warmups. The feeling left him without the normal control of his fastball and required a different strategy.
"If you're not having the good fastball, in my mind, if you keep the ratios the same, then it doesn't matter," Wainwright said. "If I drop my curveball speed down, if I drop my slider speed down as my fastball goes, then I'm still pitching with the same speed variabilities. It's very tough to cover."
Wainwright dealt with this sensation for a couple of weeks in 2014. This season, he originally felt it in his last start, his first off the disabled list (back tightness) against the Reds, when he made it through just three innings. Whenever Wainwright threw d a fastball in that game, he left the ball higher up than he wanted.
According to Statcast™, he threw fewer than 10 pitches 90 mph or above against Cincinnati, but 47.8 percent of his pitches were a variety of his fastball. He also gave up a career-high-tying five walks.
The veteran felt similarly before Friday's game and knew it would take innovative pitches, including many in the 60-mph range, to take care of business.
"I looked at [catcher Yadier Molina] on the way in as we were walking across the field and I said, 'I'm going to do it a little different tonight. Just stay with me, I'm going to do some crazy stuff,'" Wainwright said. "I knew I was going to step back, but I also knew I was going to locate everything and I was going to let them keep it on the ground."
He managed to stay in the game by keeping his curveball effective and throwing 47 of his 74 pitches for strikes. Wainwright was also assisted by three double plays in the first few innings.
"He was just maneuvering and adding and subtracting. He made it hard to get ahold of," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Even without his good stuff, with all that, there's a reason he's been so successful for so long."
Not only did Wainwright pitch effectively despite the limitations, but he also helped his own cause with a successful sacrifice bunt and an RBI single for his 11th RBI, which leads all pitchers.
Wainwright was able to deliver an effective outing since he understood his limitations. He intends to continue to pitch creatively if things don't improve.
"You saw some very different swings by being able to pull the string a little bit more," manager Mike Matheny said. "You've got to have a lot of confidence in yourself to be able to do that, and I thought that was really very impressive display of who Adam is as a pitcher and what it looks like to be a pitch maker."
Alaina Getzenberg is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis.