(BaseballStL) -- To take a quick lead in a five-game series, a team must put its best foot forward. In that spirit, the Cardinals sent Adam Wainwright - and with him their best foot, leg, arm and head - to the mound in Game 1. In fact, every inch of his 6-foot-7 frame was darn near flawless in his fifth postseason start.
"He had his good stuff going right from the start," said Mike Matheny. "His breaking ball was sharp, he controlled the counts. He had everything really working from the top."
Wainwright was on top of the Pirates from the very start. He went three innings without allowing a hit, and until Andrew McCutcheon knocked that first single in the fourth, a ball never left the infield.
He threw 75 of his 105 pitches for strikes, and never seemed to be the least bit unsure of his command.
Wainwright’s curveball was made doubly devastating because it was thrown from the sunlight into the shaded batter’s box, creating the effect of blinking for batters without ever closing their eyes.
Hitters lose the spin and the ball location on a fist-sized object traveling faster than most cars. Wainwright, already an imposing figure, took advantage of that all afternoon and hitters never had a chance.
When his day ended, the Cardinal ace had struck out six batters with his curve, and nine altogether. He threw 11 first-pitch strikes, saw six 0-2 counts, and six 1-2 counts.
Perhaps most telling, Pirates hitters swung and missed 14 times, rare for major league hitters to just flat out miss a pitch.
"We make no mistake about it, he is our ace," said Matheny. "He's the guy and sets the tone and gives the example of how this goes."
Wainwright has been setting a tone effectively. In four of his five postseason starts, he has allowed just one run. In Thursday's contest, he didn't walk a single batter. By contrast, six Cardinals walked, five of whom scored.
Pedro Alvarez’ home run for the Pirates only run came on a mistake by Wainwright. Perhaps his only one.
"It was just a disaster of a pitch to throw there, first pitch especially," he said. "He's very good. That's probably one of the better ones I've ever given up." Indeed the ball traveled more than 430 feet, though it was nothing more than a last gasp by a fading offense.
The 32-year-old will now watch as Lance Lynn and sophomore Joe Kelly follow. The young Cardinal rotation has been strong all year, and though the stakes are higher, their leader sure made it look easy Thursday.
"I'd like to say we're going to have three or four dominant pitchers in this postseason, yet to be determined," Wainwright said. "But you can definitely count me in. I'd love to be that guy. Chris Carpenter, if I'm ever compared to him, I'll take it as a huge compliment."
At this point, Adam Wainwright will do just fine.