MILWAUKEE -- The course-changing moment, as Adam Wainwright later described it, came on Sunday, when, as he cued clips of his former self, the struggling ace found his fix.With a repurposed delivery and a newfound zip on his pitches, Wainwright rediscovered himself at Miller Park on Tuesday night. And though
MILWAUKEE -- The course-changing moment, as Adam Wainwright later described it, came on Sunday, when, as he cued clips of his former self, the struggling ace found his fix.
With a repurposed delivery and a newfound zip on his pitches, Wainwright rediscovered himself at Miller Park on Tuesday night. And though the right-hander is winless since July 16, the Cardinals' 2-1 win that he set up with seven spectacular innings gave new life to the once-ailing ace.
How fitting it would be that on the day he turned 35, Wainwright went retro to assert that age won't hold him back.
"Tonight going into the game, I tried to forget everything that's gone on this year," said Wainwright, who had allowed 25 runs in his previous five August outings. "So to appease the Twitter followers out there who wanted me to retire, tonight I retired the other guy. I'm 35 now. I've turned over a new leaf."
To figure out how to move forward, Wainwright looked back, specifically to what he did so successfully while winning 39 games in 2013-14. He watched his best starts from those seasons -- and not a single one from this season -- and zeroed in on his delivery. What he saw was an aggressiveness that had been absent this year.
That key unlocked untapped velocity.
Wainwright's fastball sat at 91-92 mph with ease and topped out at 94 mph repeatedly, as he held the Brewers to three hits and one run. Over his first 26 starts, he registered an average fastball velocity of 90 mph.
His response to manager Mike Matheny upon being told that his outing would end after 96 pitches? Simple: "I'm back."
"He was going to do something different today," Matheny said. "He knew he was going to be special, and he was."
Almost everything Wainwright did not just on Tuesday, but in the four days leading up to this start, was different, in fact. A man who once encouraged another struggling pitcher to sleep upside down on his bed to change his luck skipped his bullpen session and changed every facet of his preparation. He adopted new workout, warmup and running routines. He wore stirrups for a fresh look and featured a different leg kick in them.
Even his pregame meal -- always a peanut butter and jelly sandwich -- was prepared with a twist.
"I usually mix the peanut butter and the jelly," Wainwright explained. "I didn't mix the peanut butter and the jelly. And I always use strawberry the day I pitch. I used grape."
Whether it be through superstitions or substance, Wainwright is determined to fend off the effects of age. He's heard the doubters who believe that his career is beginning its decline and intends to respond both in action and word. He acknowledged scrolling through his social media account as a means to motivation when he's been at his lowest this season.
At one point this week, Wainwright got so irritated he sent back a retort to an Iowa-based Cardinals fan who wouldn't leave him alone.
That retort? "I can't wait to shut you up."
What Wainwright did on Tuesday likely did just that.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.