Waino's 1-hit start vs. Cubs spoiled in extras

May 24th, 2021

Two truisms were tested on the Busch Stadium mound on Sunday night.

There was the ever-steady , not just continuing to turn back the clock, but cranking it with eight scoreless innings of one-hit ball. And there was the arguably steadier Alex Reyes, one of the staunchest closers in baseball this season, with only one earned run and zero homers allowed on his ledger entering the evening.

In a three-game rivalry set ultimately decided by the margins, the latter gave -- and the Cubs went home victorious, 2-1, in 10 innings.

When the automatic runner stood at second base in the 10th, it was the Cubs’ first baserunner past first base all night -- thanks, in large part, to Wainwright. It was redemption for the right-hander. His last time out, he turned in a performance he called “horrible, “terrible” and suggested kids at home refrain from watching. After Wainwright failed to get deep, conceding six runs on three homers in just four innings, the Cardinals were forced to turn to Matt Carpenter on the mound before the night came to a close.

“That game was a throwaway for me,” Wainwright said. “That was just terrible, a terrible effort. I'm glad I was able to make a few adjustments tonight and go out there and pitch a quality game.”

On Sunday, Wainwright more than gave his offense the chance to win, but the lineup squandered a bases-loaded situation with no outs in the seventh. By the time Reyes allowed the game-winning homer to Javier Báez, it was another stellar outing from Wainwright, fallen by the wayside.

“As much as anybody, he throws his heart out there for this team,” said manager Mike Shildt. “He throws it out there to bring home a win. I know it hurts him; it hurts everybody in the clubhouse.”

As for Reyes, whose slider to Báez was hammered 417 feet to dead center: “Just got a ball up, put a swing on it. Story of that one,” Shildt said. “Alex came out with good stuff and made a mistake to a dangerous hitter.”

But it was Wainwright who gave Reyes the chance to take the mound with a scoreless tie in the first place. Taking advantage of a generous zone from home-plate umpire Erich Bacchus -- one that got Cubs manager David Ross ejected from the game -- Wainwright earned 31 called strikes, tied for the most by a pitcher this season.

He also became the oldest Cardinal to throw eight innings while allowing one hit or fewer.

"If you've got a guy that can execute pitches like Wainwright, and you're giving him an extra couple inches, or balls off the plate, it's going to be a tough night,” Ross said. “... A guy his caliber, with a guy [Yadier Molina] behind the plate of his caliber, and the way he can execute pitches and manipulate the baseball, it was going to be a tough night. And it turned out it was."

As much as it was redemption, Sunday was a familiar song for the Wainwright, too. On top of extending his home scoreless streak to 16 1/3 innings, it was two home starts removed from taking the first nine-inning complete-game loss by a Cardinals starter since … himself, in 2007.

With Sunday’s one-run showing -- the automatic runner serving as the lone run to cross the plate -- the Cardinals have averaged just 2.67 runs per game in Wainwright starts, maxing out at six runs. It’s a stark detraction from the eight-plus runs per game afforded to Jack Flaherty and his 8-0 start on the year.

But the Cardinals had their chance to right that trend for victory -- a Wainwright victory -- far sooner. With the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh -- without a ball leaving the infield -- the top of the order was retired in concert: Tommy Edman on a fielder’s choice, nabbing the lead runner at home; Paul Goldschmidt on an innocent popup to the catcher; and Nolan Arenado whiffing on the eighth pitching from Ryan Tepera to allow the Cubs reliever to complete his Houdini act.

“Got the guys up we wanted,” Shildt said. “I’d take that group 10 out of 10 times.”

But Wainwright knows what it’s like to be on the other side -- on a side like Flaherty’s. He led the Majors in wins in 2009, led the NL in ’13 and was a 20-game winner in both ’10 and ’14.

Not being able to get his third win of 2021 on Sunday pained him, as Shildt alluded to. That it came against the rival Cubs -- playing in the fullest Busch Stadium has been in nearly two years -- didn’t help.