(BaseballStL) — After several cracks at Opening Day, Adam Wainwright finally notched his first win on baseball’s unofficial holiday.
It came with added significance as the victory moved the 32-year-old into a new tier of pitcher: the 100 win club. Wainwright his been a 20 game winner once and a 19 game winner twice in his career, and his 2014 campaign started with a seven inning, 105-pitch outing in which he struck out 9.
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“My breaking stuff was sharp and I could throw it for balls and strikes,” he said. “When you aren’t throwing 100 like most of these guys in the league you have to do stuff like that. I’m the old crafty righty now.”
The latter comment drew a smile from the Cardinal ace, but with a starting rotation averaging age 26.5 (24 without Wainwright), he is certainly the grizzled veteran of the group, if there has to be one. Now, he has a career milestone to prove it.
“I’m glad to have 100 wins in the big leagues. That is a huge notch on the belt,” he said. “And also a nod to those guys- Maddux and Clemens and Nolan Ryan- all those guys that got 350. That’s incredible, I’ll never even think about going there but I’m glad to have my little 100 wins and hopefully I can get a lot more.”
To that end, the big righty says his approach this season is less about his body and more about his mind. Now in his ninth season, Wainwright is looking to put everything but the next pitch out of his thoughts.
“I seriously have been working and grinding so hard to keep my emotions out of everything and just focus on making the pitch. That’s what I’ve been working harder than anything else on all spring training. I feel like that just simplifies everything,” he said after Monday’s game. “At times you start thinking about guys on deck or guys in the hole, the magnitude of the situation the visiting parks and all that. It just distracts you from making a pitch and I’m not going to do it anymore.”
While Wainwright may see plenty to work on, his teammates see one of the league’s greatest in their own clubhouse. On Sunday, Joe Kelly said he feels like the team is going to win every time Wainwright is on the mound, and Monday say more of the same from the other Cardinals.
“It’s easy to play behind Wainwright when you see where they want the pitches to be and he throws it exactly where it is,” said rookie Kolten Wong. “He doesn’t miss his spots.”
Wong may have only played behind Wainwright a few times, but the impression doesn’t seem to wear off with time. At his locker, Yadier Molina talked about the Cardinal starter with the same reverence as the 23-year-old Hawaiian.
“Waino’s amazing,” Molina said shaking his head. “He can control everything, he can hit the spot, he can do whatever he wants to do.”
“That’s what we expect out of Waino, every time he gets the rock,” added Matt Carpenter. “We know we are in a good position to win a ballgame and today was no different.”
Well, with win number 100, maybe a little different.
“It’s very special,” Wainwright said. “I remember when Jeff Suppan got that number and I was just looking up going, ‘Man I just don’t know if I’ll ever get there.’ Now you start looking at other numbers.”