(BaseballStL) — It’s been a season of milestones for Adam Wainwright. With a retooled arsenal and a new, in-the-moment approach, the 32-year-old finds himself with seven wins in 2014. One of those was his 100th, and Tuesday’s was his first one-hitter.
“I knew early on in my warmup session I was going to have good stuff,” he said after the game. “I felt really in control of my body today. That was my main focus. I knew my arm would be rested and strong.”
Wainwright was in control of just about everything in the series opener with Arizona. He struck out nine on his way to a 115-pitch complete game shutout, his second of the season.
“You could tell the first couple innings he had a great rhythm going and had all of his pitches working,” said first baseman Matt Adams. “It’s just fun to be behind him working.”
Mike Matheny didn’t have the same seat Adams did, but during the postgame press conference, he seemed like he enjoyed it just as much.
“That was fun to watch. You just kind of watch how he did it. It’s kind of surprising his pitch count got as high as it did,” the manager said.
It was a 26-pitch fourth inning that bumped the total, the same inning that saw the only Diamondback hit- a double off the wall by Paul Goldschmidt.
“I don’t ever second guess a pitch to Goldie out there,” said Wainwright of the 2-2 curveball he offered the All Star first baseman. “They have some dangerous hitters so the key is to not let them string anything together. If they’re going to get an extra base hit, make sure that’s the end of it.”
Apart from the fourth, the Cardinal ace never threw more than 15 pitches in an inning. He had two totals of 12, an inning with 10, and three frames that took only nine pitches.
Part of the success was tremendous defensive play behind the big righty. In addition to beginning the game with a two-run blast, Adams had a couple defensive gems- including the first out in the ninth.
“He works very, very fast. So it keeps us on our toes, and when a guy’s out there throwing the way he’s throwing we want to make every play that we can to help him,” he said.
“You definitely want to stay sharp,” added Kolten Wong, who made four plays at second while showcasing his impressive range. “The pitcher’s doing his job and he’s pitching his butt off so you want you make sure you’re out there and can make every play possible for him, and make it a little easier for him.”
Wainwright took care of a few outs himself, tying his season-high strikeout total of nine. He also tied a career best with six called thirds, something he attributes to winning the mental chess match with hitters.
“I try to stay a pitch a head of them. People know I throw curveballs when I’m ahead in the count a lot of times,” he said. “So sometimes if I’m locating things well you can catch them off guard when they’re looking slow. It’s not like I’m throwing 95 but it’s hard enough. You can’t sit slow and hit hard and you can’t sit hard and hit slow.”
With the rainout and the off day, Wainwright got two extra days of rest, something he says was a downright necessity.
“I don’t admit it often, but this time I needed a day off,” he said. “I needed that extra day and I ended up getting two extra days which was even better.”
The extra rest put plenty of gas in his tank, but even with the strong performance, he had a leash in the ninth- one he negotiated with Matheny as Jason Motte warmed up in the bullpen.
“I know he wanted to get [Motte] in there but I really wanted to finish that one off,” he said. “He kind of looked at me like, ‘I’m thinking about pulling you,’ and I said, ‘just give me 12 pitches.’”
He needed only nine.
With one more impressive notch on his belt, the Georgia native will sleep deservedly well Tuesday. Once the sun rises, a new goal will appear on the horizon. After all, there was that one hit.
“Means I gotta get better I guess,” Wainwright smiled. “Still letting somebody on base right?”