(BaseballStL) -- Moments before the champagne popped, Adam Wainwright stood in the clubhouse and addressed his team.
"I don't know what to say right now. I'm at a loss for words." After a brief pause, he looked up and said, "I just want you to know I love you. I trust you, I believe in you. Let's go bring this thing home." Cheers erupted, music blared and the bubbly showers began.
Long before the (relatively) private celebration, however, Wainwright stood on the mound in front of 47,000 fans and pitched a complete game gem to close out the Pirates and the NLDS, 6-1.
The pressure high, the crowd electric, Wainwright was more fired up than anytime in his career.
"I was really having to contain my fist pumps, because I felt like I was going to do it every pitch," he laughed. "I felt like I was closing from the first pitch on. I think it's the first time in my career I fist pumped after the first out of an inning."
From the first pitch, he appeared in control, surrendering just a free pass to Neil Walker in the first and a single to Byrd in the second. David Freese gave the Cardinals the lead in the bottom half of the inning, sending a lined shot into the opposing bullpen after an eight-pitch walk to Jon Jay. Leading 2-0, Wainwright took the mound feeling like he had enough to win.
"My first thought was 'that's all we need,' but my second thought was 'alright let's collect ourselves and get back into that one-pitch-at-a-time mentality,'" he said. "I didn't want to look too far ahead."
From there, the Pirates didn't have a man on base until the sixth inning.
In the St. Louis half of the sixth, Jay gave Wainwright another run with a two-out RBI single. The Pirates would not go quietly however.
The seventh brought the most dangerous moment of the night, and like so many baseball rallies, it came from nowhere. After two swift outs, Justin Morneau hit a ball forcing Matt Carpenter to his right. He made the play, but his momentum took him to one knee and Morneau beat the throw.
Marlon Byrd then hit a ball to Pete Kozma, and though it appeared to be an easy flip to Carpenter at the bag, Kozma's momentum took him up the middle and he opted to throw to first. Byrd beat it out.
Suddenly, the dreaded Pedro Alvarez stepped in as the tying run.
"I stepped back and I knew Pedro was a tough hitter. He's done some serious damage to us all year long," Wainwright said. "My main concern was making some pitches right there and not leave him something he could do some damage with."
Alvarez, an absolute juggernaut in the NLDS, hit a ground ball down the line that careened off the first base bag and over Matt Adams and Morneau scored what proved to be the only Pirate run.
Wainwright, ever confident, stuck to his plan against the next batter, Russell Martin. “I knew he was going to be aggressive early. I knew he was going to try to do some serious damage. I knew if I executed the pitch I wanted to make, he was going to ground out to short," he said.
Sure enough, Martin grounded the first pitch, a cutter down and away, to Kozma who flipped to Carpenter to end the threat.
Fans willed their pitcher on as the game wound down, with chants of "Wain-o! Wain-o! Wain-o!" something the big hurler said blew him away.
"You have no idea how fired up that made me. When our fans react like that, I almost couldn’t contain myself," he said shaking his head, champagne dripping down his face. "I had chill bumps from my head to my toes."
Newly-minted everyday first baseman Matt Adams hit a moon shot in the eighth, and Kozma added an RBI single to give the Cards a 6-1 lead heading into the last inning.
Ending any speculation whether he would go the distance, the 6-foot-7 Cardinal ace sprinted from the dugout to the mound, never looking back.
"It made everybody in the whole stadium's hair stand on end, because you could see he wanted that ball worse than anything in the world," Mike Matheny said after the game.
"Yeah I wanted to send the message to anyone who was watching that this was my game," Wainwright confirmed.
Two quick outs began the ninth, and despite the two singles that followed, no one had any doubt how the game would end.
Wainwright stared down the Cardinal-killing Alvarez, getting him to swing and miss three times. The final pitch buckled his knees and in that moment between the final out and a stadium roar that could wake the dead, Wainwright allowed himself to erupt.
After the clubhouse had calmed and the spray of champagne gave way to exhausted smiles and huge embraces, the thought of another series seemed almost too much.
Not for Wainwright. He still has business left to tend to.
"I didn't want to go home yet. It's not time for hunting season for me yet," he laughed. "We still got some more champagne to pop."
Good lord. Is there any left?