Boppers back Waino in return from IL

Righty picks up win after absence to care for his family battling COVID

May 4th, 2021

Seven days ago, took the loss in a nine-inning complete game, the first Cardinal to do so since he did the exact same thing 14 years ago. On Monday, he was tagged for five runs across 5 2/3 innings in a 6-5 win over the Mets at Busch Stadium. He took the win.

But it’s what happened in the six days between that mattered most.

Wainwright revealed Monday night that his entire family was sick with COVID-19 last week -- all five children and his wife, Jenny. It is true that his placement on the COVID-19 injured list on Friday was because he had a close contact with a positive individual, but his absence from the team was due to a need to be home with his family, “[be] a good dad and be a good husband.”

“My wife, she texted me at one point and she said, ‘I can't go anymore without you being here,’” Wainwright said. “So I had to go. That's why I had to go home.”

Everyone has turned the corner, Wainwright said, as each of his five kids “barely felt the thing,” but Jenny had a tougher time fighting through it. When Wainwright left the team, he isolated at a hotel until he received the message from Jenny that she needed him at home.

“When my wife says that, she's a tough lady -- she's a really tough, really tough girl,” Wainwright said, “and so when she said that, I knew I had to go home.”

Wainwright, initially scheduled to pitch Sunday in Pittsburgh, ended up not traveling with the team. He was allowed to return on Monday in an expedited manner despite the exposure because he’s been vaccinated.

“I’m really glad I got the vaccine,” Wainwright said. “Otherwise, I would have had to make a choice. I'm either going home, which I would have done, and probably going to miss a minimum two weeks, probably three or four. Or now I can go home and be with them and help be a dad.”

“Family first, man, went to take care of his family,” said manager Mike Shildt. “A lot of respect for that guy, and he was clear, [there] wasn't any second guessing about it, ‘I've got to go home and be a good dad and good husband, be strong for my family.’ It's the right thing to do. …

“There’s a reason why he won the Roberto Clemente Award.”

That his family members' condition had improved allowed Wainwright to be on the mound more at ease on Monday. What also helped was receiving the run support he missed out on in his last start.

Nolan Arenado’s three-run blast in the third inning was almost for naught. A 1-2 offering from Mets starter and Southeast Missouri State grad Joey Lucchesi was just barely nicked for a foul tip. Arenado vociferously and immediately pleaded his case to home-plate umpire Mark Carlson, who agreed and granted the third baseman an extended plate appearance. Following another foul ball -- no doubt about this one -- Arenado laced his three-run shot 383 feet into left field.

"I definitely nicked it,” Arenado said, smiling. “I'm just glad Mark heard it."

Arenado’s blast -- big enough on its own as a game-tying swing -- was history-matching. It gave the Cardinals five consecutive games with a three-run homer, making the 2021 Cards the first team to do so since the 2000 Giants, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It’s also the longest such streak in franchise history.

It was just one mark in the day of picking up Wainwright, as was the bullpen performance that followed. It was already a lights-out performance when Alex Reyes continued a string of 3 1/3 no-hit innings from the ‘pen into the ninth. Then it really became lights-out when … the lights at Busch Stadium went out mid at-bat with Pete Alonso at the plate amid Reyes' eighth save of the season.

“Thank God the pitch wasn’t in mid-flight or the ball wasn’t in the air for a fly ball or something like that in the game,” Shildt chuckled.

Monday was both the most cruel and appropriate poetic justice for Wainwright, who along the way became the first Cardinal to notch his 1,000th strikeout in a single ballpark. A week ago, he did everything necessary to take home a win, bitten by just a pair of solo home runs but receiving a mere run of support from his offense. On Monday, doing things that do not “have anything to do with success at all, ever,” he said -- such as plunking and walking in a run in the second inning -- he was buoyed by his teammates.

A week after Wainwright the dad had to go home to pick up his family, his other family at the ballpark was there to do the same.

“This whole thing has taught me -- not that I didn't already know this -- but just a great reminder that baseball is great. I love being with my teammates, those guys are amazing and they're part of my family,” Wainwright said. “But my family at home is number one. I had to make sure that they were good and I had to make sure that I was being a good dad and being a good husband before I was being a good baseball player.”