(BaseballStL) — Adam Wainwright takes the ball for the Cardinals’ first contest at the Friendly Confines Friday.
The 32-year-old has been absolutely masterful in his last three starts; throwing 24 innings, striking out 18, allowing nine hits and no runs while walking five.
His ERA is down to 1.20 on the season and his WHIP is .778. This season’s suffocatingly dominant performance on the mound is largely due to a combination of two things.
First, the Cardinal ace said he spent all offseason and spring training working on a new mental approach. After the season’s first start in, he explained his new mindset.
“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 the season opener. “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.”
It seems to be working. Beyond the new mental approach, the righty has altered his pitch repertoire for 2014. His enhanced use of a cutter and sinker have led to a brand new look, something manager Mike Matheny says makes even experienced hitters have a hard time against him.
“I think it’s a completely different pitcher which makes it a little more challenging for these guys that have seen him so many times. It’s not the same guy,” the Cardinal manager said.
Friday’s starter Travis Wood is another member in a mistreated Cubs rotation in 2014. He’s posting a strikeout to walk ratio of 4.43-to-1, and has walked only seven of the 136 hitters he has faced all season, and allowed 12 earned runs.
He’s 1-3, having only gotten three or more runs twice so far.
No one has suffered more than Jeff Samardzija, who has a sub-2.0 ERA in six starts yet is still 0-3. According to Elias Sports Bureau, he became the first pitcher in over 100 years to start the season by throwing five games with seven or more innings pitched while giving up two or fewer runs to not earn at least one victory.
The Nasty North Side
It’s no secret the Cubs and Cards have a long standing rivalry, and the "fanimosity" is perhaps the biggest part of that. Wrigley Field has hosted some memorable contests between the two, as well as some impressive jeering from both sides.
“I love the atmosphere, I love the hatred Cubs fans have for us. It makes for some of the most interesting fan interaction you could possibly have,” said Mike Matheny. “There’s some serious anger there. You get some interesting comments, stuff you’ll never forget… or repeat.”
As in any rivalry, the records rarely matter. It’s something the Cardinal coaches try to impress upon young players- anything can happen on the north side of Chicago.
“We’ve had some really weird games there too. You can’t back off for a second. That’s what we tell the young players and young pitchers- you grind for nine,” Matheny said. “You’re going to see some weird stuff happen here if you let your guard down.”
1) Matt Carpenter 3B
2) Jhonny Peralta SS
3) Matt Holliday LF
4) Allen Craig 1B
5) Yadier Molina C
6) Jon Jay CF
7) Randal Grichuk RF
8) Mark Ellis 2B
9) Adam Wainwright P