(BaseballStL) -- One day before he takes the mound to start the decisive final game of the National League Division Series against the Pirates, Adam Wainwright recalled a time when the high-leverage situation in a do-or-die game almost got the better of him.
It was the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS against the Mets at Shea Stadium.
“The first two batters were able to reach base because I was unable to avoid the distraction,” Wainwright said. “I was hearing every fan in the stands. Everybody who was booing me and cussing me I could hear perfectly clear as day right next to my ear, and there was a bunch of them.”
After Yadier Molina silenced the crowd with a two-run home run for a 3-1 lead in the top of the ninth inning, the crowd of 56,357 fans got on the then-rookie closer Adam Wainwright as Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez hit the back-to-back singles before Cliff Floyd, who hit 34 home runs the year prior, entered as a pinch hitter.
It was then on that mound in New York that Wainwright, 24 years old at time, began to define how he managed the high-leverage situation.
“After those first two guys reached base, I stepped back off the mound, and gathered my thoughts, and just as (Jason) Isringhausen told me to do so many times -- just breathe, just control my breathing. I got back into my focus level and then I was able to get outs.”
Floyd struck out looking, Jose Reyes lined out to centerfield and after Paul Lo Duca walked to load the bases, Wainwright struck out current teammate Carlos Beltran with the nastiest curveball the game of baseball has ever seen.
It was the clincher that sent his team to the World Series where it would beat the Tigers in five games.
Almost seven years to the day from his NLCS clinching save, Wainwright will be called upon again to advance his team in the playoffs when he faces the Pirates for the fifth time this season and second time in less than a week Wednesday at Busch Stadium.
“Listening to Andrew McCutchen talk that he said they’re going to be ready for me so I’ll make sure I’m ready for them, too,” Wainwright said. “I’m going to go out there and not try to do too much. I will have a good game plan. I will be very prepared.”
Should the Pirates get to Wainwright, who allowed only three hits and a run in a 9-1 Game 1 win over Pittsburgh, he will do exactly what he had to do on that night in New York in 2006.
“If they make me get off of that game plan then I will adjust during the game.”
An adjustment the Cardinals hope Wainwright won’t have to make. An adjustment Wainwright is confident with making.
Scott Bierman covers the Cardinals, Rams and Blues for KMOV.com and its associated mobile apps (BaseballStL, FootballStL and HockeyStL). You can follow him on Twitter @Scott_Bierman for St. Louis sports news and notes.