Strike back: Wainwright gets win No. 14
Wong belts two solo home runs as Cards stay one back in NL Central
ST. LOUIS -- Manager Mike Matheny arrived on the Busch Stadium mound in a critical seventh-inning spot Thursday not needing to hear a word. He merely went to say a few words, or "a little pep talk," his ace called it afterward.
Matheny didn't ask Adam Wainwright, then having already thrown 116 pitches, to convince him that he was fresh enough to finish off the inning. Matheny had already determined that Wainwright would. This visit was merely for motivation.
"He just poured into me that he believed I was going to get us out of that spot right there," Wainwright said.
Wainwright rose to the occasion, freezing Yoenis Cespedes with the tying runs on base to close the seventh and set the Cardinals up for a 5-2 win over Boston. Kolten Wong paced the offense with his two-homer night to help cap a winning homestand in front of 44,570 at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals, who scored all of their runs with two outs, remain a game behind the Brewers in a crowded National League Central race.
"This guy impresses me so often -- and times like this, pitches like that, games like this, he just takes it to another level with the way all of us look at him," Matheny said of Wainwright afterward. "He just continues to lead this club."
Wainwright's 122nd and final pitch was his signature one, a 78-mph curve that left Cespedes with nothing to do but tip his cap. After a one-out single and two-out walk prompted Matheny's mound meeting, Cespedes took three straight balls. Wainwright worked the count full with his cutter before closing his night with pizzazz. He pumped his fist as he turned toward the dugout.
"That's a couple weeks of frustration built up there of not making a pitch when I needed to," Wainwright said of the added emotion. "Today was a day I was leaning heavily on [the curveball]. So many times in my career when things aren't going great, that is the pitch that's always been there for me."
"That was the game right there," Matheny added.
Five of Wainwright's seven strikeouts came on the curve.
"I'm pretty sure anybody who got that curve thrown at them would buckle," Wong said of the last one. "It was nasty."
The 122 pitches were a game-high for Wainwright this season, though he did tame the pitch count in the middle innings to give himself the chance to pitch as deep as he did. A 32-pitch third, during which the Red Sox shaved a three-run deficit to one, had Wainwright's count at 66 by the end of the frame.
But he'd get through the next two on 18, that coming during a stretch in which he retired 11 in a row.
"We forced him to make some key pitches with men in scoring position, which he did," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Overall, you put that many baserunners on base or that number of hits against him, you come away with a little bit of a missed opportunity."
The seven-inning start was also more of the same for the Cardinals, who have had four straight games of that length for the first time since May. That equals the number of seven-inning starts the club had from July 3-30. Seeking to build a rotation that could offer those deep starts with regularity was one of the driving forces behind the Cardinals' pair of non-waiver Trade Deadline moves.
Since then, the Cardinals have had only one start of less than six. It came from Wainwright, too, in what was an outlier of a performance amid an otherwise dominant season. On Thursday, he joined Milwaukee's Wily Peralta as the NL's first 14-game winners. Still, Wainwright wasted no time afterward either, re-watching his outing in the video room to see where improvements can be made.
"I feel like I have a very good plan going forward," Wainwright said. "I'm excited about that."
Support for Wainwright came early, as the Cardinals struck for three first-inning runs off Red Sox starter Brandon Workman. Jhonny Peralta's two-out double, his team-leading 27th of the year, drove home Matt Carpenter and Wong. Oscar Taveras followed by extending his hitting streak to seven with an RBI single.
The offense then went quiet before Wong provided extra cushion. He blasted a solo homer 384 feet in the fifth, then bettered it with a 423-foot blast in the seventh. It was Wong's first multihomer game since college and the first by a Cardinals second baseman since Tyler Greene in 2012.
"It was still a close game at that time," Wong said, "so to give us an extra insurance run was definitely awesome to kind of allow us to ease a little bit."
With Trevor Rosenthal down because of usage concerns, Pat Neshek nailed down the save, his third of the year, to seal a 4-2 homestand for St. Louis.