Bullpen problem, you say? Adam Wainwright’s here to save the day!
No, but seriously. What more can you say? What other superlatives can be added to his already-sparkling resume? Right now, Wainwright may just be minding his own business, focused on his spring promise to be worthy of the new contract extension, but just maybe he’s not interested in letting a key win slip away by handing the game over to the, shall we say “developing” bullpen until he absolutely must.
“We just had a good thing going,” Wainwright said in the post game. That, my dear, is an understatement.
Last night, he was two batters away from his second complete game shutout of the year. He’s in full-on Carp-mode; he’s a man on a mission, and it’s a beautiful sight to see.
Know what else is beautiful? Waino’s new toy.
If you missed it, here’s a little taste.
High heat? From Wainwright? Well, then.
That new pitch is by design — overall, but especially against the Nationals who were a problem area for Waino last season. According to Jenifer Langosch, Yadier Molina spent a little extra time watching film from Adam’s starts in D.C. last year, just to be sure they didn’t make the same mistakes this time around. And, the film breakdown led to a decision: it was time to break out a different weapon.
Doing something different entailed throwing only one changeup and incorporating elevated four-seam fastballs into Wainwright’s repertoire. The latter is a pitch that Wainwright chose to focus on this spring, knowing that it would make his curveball — which is delivered from the same release point — even more effective.
I’ll say it did. Waino was brilliant. And yes, he did give up his first walk of the season (after 34.2 innings without one). But, that was also by design.
“I wasn’t going to go the whole season without walking someone,” Wainwright said. “I wanted to let the game dictate when that was OK to do. Right there, I thought that pitching him tough, even though I’m loading the bases for a tough hitter in LaRoche, Bryce Harper can hurt you in a lot of different ways.”
Wainwright, too, can bring the pain in multiple ways. He’s currently the MLB leader in strike-out-to-walk ratio (that’s 1 walk to 37 strikeouts). He’s solidified his masterpiece — that 12-6 curve, and not only utilized his old friend the fastball, but morphed it into a dual threat.
Despite the one bad start on Opening Day, he’s looked every bit the ace we know he can be. And to think, some people were hoping he’d not be resigned! (Okay, they were few and far between, but they were out there. Promise.) If Waino does what Yadi did after signing his big contract — the whole “career year” thing — he might just add another title to his list. You know, the one they give pitchers that I don’t want to say so I don’t jinx anything!
But, I digress.
Waino was good. Scratch that … Waino was outstanding. No runs, five hits, one walk, nine strikeouts.
And Edward Mujica followed suit. Despite Adam’s efforts, he gave up a lead off double that ended his chance at his second complete game shutout in 2013. With Bryce Harper at second, and two outs to get, Mujica came in and threw just two pitches. Talk about efficient, eh? Even if Wainwright could have finished the game (he was at 113 pitches), it was just as well that Mujica handled it. That way, you don’t push Waino, you stay out of potential trouble, and you get Mujica a significant save attempt. Sounds like a good call to me.
Oh, I suppose there is a story in the game’s offense, too. Not much of one, to be honest. Nationals starter Ross Detwiler did well to keep the Cardinals bats in check. But after a string of base hits to right field in the 4th inning, two runs scored. However, with the bases loaded and nobody out, Molina, David Freese, and Matt Carpenter popped out, flied out, and struck out to kill the rally. They were just 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position last night.
Good thing Waino was on, or that might have come back to haunt them.
With the win, the Cardinals secured their first series win of the road trip. They could finish off the sweep behind Jaime Garcia this afternoon before heading back home. Garcia squares off against Stephen Strasburg at 12:05 p.m.
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.