Stymied by Wainwright in milestone win, Crew can only tip caps

September 19th, 2023

ST. LOUIS -- Even during the worst season of his sensational career, Cardinals mainstay Adam Wainwright managed to stymie the Brewers.

Facing Milwaukee for the 55th time over 18 seasons on Monday night, the 42-year-old veteran outdueled 27-year-old with seven scoreless innings for career victory No. 200 while sending the Brewers to a 1-0 loss at Busch Stadium.

This is not the time for the Brewers to be tipping caps to an opponent, not while they chase a division crown. But even though frustration was high after Milwaukee hitters struggled to connect with Wainwright’s combination of slow, slower and slowest to every quadrant of the strike zone, there was little else to do after the right-hander walked away with a lifetime 2.68 ERA in 322 innings against his favorite foe.

  • Games remaining (12): at STL (3), at MIA (3), vs. STL (3), vs. CHC (3)
  • Standings update: The Brewers (84-66) hold a six-game lead over both the Cubs (78-72) and the Reds (79-73) for first place in the NL Central, though Chicago has the edge because it leads Cincinnati in the loss column. Milwaukee is the third-best division leader, meaning it would host a best-of-three NL Wild Card Series against the final Wild Card entrant starting on Oct. 3.
  • Magic number: The Brewers' magic number to clinch the NL Central is seven.

“Not because of today’s game, but I was always watching him pitching because I enjoy his career and all that he has done,” said Peralta. “I don’t feel good, because we lost the game, but on the other side, I feel good about him. I think that he deserves what he has done today.” 

Said Brewers catcher William Contreras: “That’s Waino, right? You congratulate him for his 200th. He knows how to pitch. He throws slow, so you have to make an adjustment, and that’s something that all nine guys in the lineup have to be able to do. We didn’t do that.”

Wainwright, 5-11 this season with a 7.40 ERA, delivered a vintage performance for his second consecutive victory coming off 10 straight losing decisions. Over seven frames, he allowed four hits and two walks with three strikeouts and only one ball in play in excess of 100 mph to deny the Brewers’ bid to lower their magic number to win the National League Central on a night the second-place Cubs were idle.

Wainwright also answered a question posed pregame by Brewers manager Craig Counsell.

“This is kind of an interesting night,” Counsell said as his club took batting practice. “You just have so much history with a player, and you’ve seen him do so many [things] -- unfortunately, against you. He’s beat you many times, really.

“So, what does a night like tonight bring? It’s interesting from that perspective.”

What did the night bring? A lot of frustration for Peralta -- who took a loss for the first time in 10 starts after tossing six good frames, marred only by a home run in the fourth inning from Willson Contreras, William’s older brother -- and for Brewers hitters. They put a runner in scoring position against Wainwright in the third, the fourth and the seventh but couldn’t break through.

Twice, Milwaukee’s No. 3 hitter, Carlos Santana, grounded into an inning-ending double play. Santana said Wainwright was “lucky” that those ground balls, each in excess of 95 mph, went right at a defender, but he quickly added that Wainwright “had a great career” and offered his congratulations.

The Crew's best chance came in the seventh, when Mark Canha’s 105.3 mph single and Willy Adames’ groundout put the tying runner in scoring position in a 1-0 game. Rowdy Tellez and Josh Donaldson both flied out to end that threat -- and Wainwright’s outing.

“We didn’t do a very good job offensively,” Counsell said. “He kind of got into a rhythm -- quick innings. We just didn’t put any pressure on him. Give him credit, he did good. He hung in there for seven innings. … We have to have more pressure than just getting the leadoff guy on.”

Wainwright, who joined Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw as active pitchers with 200 wins, called it “one of the most fun games I’ve ever pitched in my life.”

“I felt comfortable tonight seeing [the Brewers] across the way and seeing Counsell across the way. I used to face him as a hitter,” Wainwright said. “When the Brewers are there, you have to show up and play.”

After the game, a number of Milwaukee players remained at the dugout rail to watch Wainwright take his curtain call.

“That’s a special thing when a visiting team will honor you like that,” Wainwright said. “I’ll never forget that.”

The teams have one more series next week in Milwaukee, so there’s a chance Wainwright will face the Crew one final time. But his postgame comments suggested he doesn’t expect to take the mound against them again.

If this was it, the Brewers were left tipping their caps with respect.

“He’s one of the best pitchers of this generation, there’s no question about it,” Counsell said. “I’ll always admire him and how he pitches and what he’s accomplished.”