ST. LOUIS — Adam Wainwright fought his way to win number 16, using every tool he has to secure the victory against the Pirates Tuesday.
The Cardinal ace had struggled of late, going 2-4 with a 5.17 ERA in August. The 33-year-old said in Pittsburgh he was working through what he called a “dead arm” phase, a term used to describe a pitcher’s arm not feeling not as sharp or strong as usual.
Tuesday, despite surrendering four runs on three homers, he said he felt much improved.
“You can look at the three balls in the middle of the plate that got hit out but I think most of the time I was much better tonight than I have been and that’s what I’m going to take from this start going forward,” Wainwright said.
Russell Martin scored the game’s first run in the second when he pumped a solo home run to right field. Wainwright would answer at the plate, driving in a run with a groundout to short and moving Peter Bourjos to third so he could later score on a sac fly.
The third inning saw a second Bucco bomb, when Jordy Mercer led things off with a homer to left. It was the first time Wainwright had allowed two home runs in a game all season.
“I felt comfortable on the mound all night long, I really did,” the ace said. “I just made a terrible pitch to Mercer and he hit it out. The ball to Russell was away, but it’s up and he’s pretty good up out over the plate.”
Luckily for Wainwright, he had another at bat coming. In the fifth inning, the St. Louis starter drove a two-RBI single into the outfield, pushing the Cardinal lead to 5-3. In one game he had doubled his RBI total to six and the final two pushed Pirates starter Jeff Locke from the game.
“There’s usually two or three games a year that you swing the outcome if you can provide something offensively at the plate,” he said. “Tonight was one of those games where the guys did a good job of getting on base in front of me and I made a couple good swings.”
Those two runs would be essential, as Wainwright surrendered another homer to Starling Marte in the seventh inning. It was the Pittsburgh outfielder’s 10th of the season and the first time Wainwright gave up three homers in a game since 2010. This time, it was a slider that caught too much of the plate.
“These are good hitters in the big leagues. They make their living on balls in the middle of the plate,” Wainwright said.
The Cardinals would go on to win 6-4, claiming a two game lead over the Brewers in the division. The team is 19-9 in Wainwright’s appearances. For Mike Matheny, even a four-run line was encouraging when evaluating his starter.
“It looked, just watching his base through his delivery, it looked more on time,” the manager said. “I agree with him. I think he’s close.”
Wainwright’s next start will be in Milwaukee as the closing contest of a four-game series.