(BaseballStL) — It took him a season-high 122 pitches, but Adam Wainwright closed out seven innings in the Thursday night finale with the Red Sox.
Things looked in jeopardy in the third inning, when the 32-year-old took 32 pitches to escape a Boston rally.
“The third was a rough one on him,” Mike Matheny said. “Just trying to fight to find something that was working. It didn’t look like it was a strike zone issue, it just looked like he was getting balls hit a little bit.”
The Sox tallied four hits off Wainwright in the frame, scoring twice to reduce the Cardinal lead to one.
After that he cruised, getting through two innings in 18 pitches before tossing 16 in the sixth. Over that stretch he faced only nine hitters, striking out two.
Despite the mid-game success, the big righty said it was a struggle most of the night;something of a continuation of the last few starts.
“I’m just going to keep going out there and make as many pitches as I can until I get through this grindy thing I’m in,” he said. “I think I finally made some good adjustments that will help me in the long run today.”
In the seventh, a six pitch ground out started things off, but Daniel Nava punched a single through to put a man on. A fly out to center followed, but when Dustin Pedroia drew a walk to make it second and third, Matheny headed out to chat with Wainwright.
“I never think he’s going to take me out unless it’s the second time to the mound,” the Cardinal ace said. “He just came out and gave me a little pep talk.”
Matheny said there was no debate as to whether Wainwright would stay in the game, calling the visit “just a quick talk.”
With Kevin Siegrist up in the bullpen and the Georgia native at 116 pitches, Matheny relayed his confidence to his starter and headed back to the dugout. Wainwright toed the rubber and looked in to face Yoenis Cespedes with two on.
After falling behind 3-0 to the left fielder, things looked like they would come to a frustrating end for the starter.
Back-to-back cutters got him to a full count and with one pitch left, he went to his best.
“That was a filthy curveball he threw to him,” Kolten Wong said after the game. “I’m pretty sure anybody who got that curve thrown at them would buckle. It was nasty.”
The curve ball froze Cespedes and Wainwright walked off having fanned seven, five with his hook. For the three-time All Star, Uncle Charlie has been a faithful companion, even in stormy seas.
“So many times in my career when things haven’t been going great, that’s the pitch that’s always been there for me,” he said. “It definitely saved me today.”
The called third marked the end of a frustrating stretch for Wainwright, who was surprisingly demonstrative as he walked off the field. It was a much-needed release after finally executing when he needed to.
“Last game against the Brewers, it was the same kind of thing. Every time I needed to make a pitch, I didn’t do it and I hate that,” he said. “I feel like that’s one of my strengths. When I need to reach back and make a pitch and get an out, I hadn’t been doing that.”
Despite having to fight tooth and nail to his 14th win, Wainwright now has a share of the National League lead in victories. In a season marred with inconsistency, the aging hurler has been the team’s rock, something his manager continues to admire.
“This guy impresses me so often,” Matheny said. “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.”