Adam Wainwright has waited a long time for this moment: his St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs, fighting for a chance to compete for baseball’s highest honor, with him atop the pitching staff. He’d gotten a glimpse of it in 2009, when he was the number-two man behind the ageless Chris Carpenter.
By the time the team made it to the top of the baseball world a couple of years later, Wainwright was unable to truly take part of it. His arm had given out, and though the ace celebrated with his team just the same, much of Wainwright’s energy was focused on getting better, biding his time until the opportunity came where he could play a significant part.
Then when it finally came, he nearly blew it – chased out of a decisive game five of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals after just two and a third innings, putting his team in a deep six-run hole.
The Cardinals, however, had other ideas.
So tonight, Wainwright was given new life on his playoff career – a second chance to pitch in a pivotal postseason game in front of a roaring Busch Stadium, with the chance to push the San Francisco Giants to the brink in game four of the NLCS.
This time, he delivered in spades.
Wainwright had been somewhat uneven in 2012, his first season since returning from Tommy John surgery; but tonight, he was his vintage, brilliant self. The righty pounded the strike zone, flashing his league-best curveball all night long and complimenting it with his cutter, standing tall as Giant batters helplessly pounded it into the ground one after another. Wainwright gave up just four hits, his only real mistake a misplaced sinker in the second inning that Hunter Pence was happy to take out of the park for a no-doubter.
That would be all, however; the Giants only had three baserunners reach against Wainwright over the next five innings, as he needed just 96 pitches to get the 21 outs, striking out five along the way. With their ace shutting down their opponents, the Cardinals went to work, turning what had been a close game in the second inning into a rout.
The Giants are now on their last gasps of air; though Wainwright’s performance was not the final blow – it was damn close, as he has given the team a chance to close things out at home.
Consider it mission (almost) accomplished for Wainwright, whose return to form could not come at a better time for the Cardinals.