ST. LOUIS — The moment of truth has found Adam Wainwright. After a week of speculation about his ailing right elbow, the Cardinal ace takes the hill in game one of the NLCS.
When he talked to the media, the Georgia native suggested too much was being made of his tendinitis and did not expect to be hampered in his start.
“You know what, it's October. Every team is dealing with with their individual stuff. The problem that I have is being way overblown,” he said, verbally waving away concern. “But it's funny to watch. I'm a baseball fan first, and it's funny to watch the shows and watch guys who have never met me on the show saying they're concerned about me and this and my arm troubles here and arm troubles there. But what can I do about it other than go out and pitch?”
The 33-year-old will be looking for some redemption after his initial appearance in Los Angeles, when he couldn’t make it through five innings. The Dodgers racked up 11 hits and six runs, notching a homer while pushing Wainwright to 102 pitches in 26 batters. That forgettable performance was followed by the news of his elbow tendonitis flaring up, and from there speculation seemed to snowball.
“When people hear ‘elbow,’ they think the worst, and, you know, rightfully so,” he said. “I’ve obviously had an elbow issue before, I had that fixed. And if you see the amount of stars going down with elbow injuries these days, it's natural to have that reaction.”
The four-time All Star reiterated the injury didn’t not involve his UCL, and said he hopes to assuage any fears with his performance Saturday.
He will be tasked with a familiar foe, as the Giants and Cardinals are well acquainted, especially in October. The experience of both clubs in the NLCS is thrown into sharp relief by the inexperience of those in the other league, as the Royals missed the playoffs 29 straight years before 2014, and the Orioles have two October appearances in the last 17 (this year is their first since 2012.) San Francisco and St. Louis have each played in two of the last four World Series.
“I think the guys in that clubhouse maybe have an edge because we've done it. Largely a lot of the same guys that have been here since 2011, that saw us go through that, and Yadier and I have been here since '06 and seen those winning clubs as well, we've had some history in the postseason,” Wainwright said. “We have had some success and that gives us some confidence.”
He will need to lean heavily on that confidence Saturday. Even if the elbow is manageable, the Giants have had success off Wainwright this season. In their first meeting, he surrendered eight hits and seven runs in just over four innings, taking his third loss of the season. He bounced back in July, finishing 7.2 innings and shutting out San Fran over his 107 pitches.
With the rubber match on the way, the Giants are missing two hitters with tremendous success off Wainwright. Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan both hit over .300 against the Cardinal starter (.444 for Pagan), and both have double-digit at bats. Pagan will miss the playoffs after undergoing back surgery. Scutaro is also done for 2014, making Pablo Sandoval the only hitter in the Giants lineup that hits over .300 with double digit at bats against Wainwright (.333). Hunter Pence has the most experience, going 14-for-51 with two homers and four RBIs. He’s also struck out 12 times.