(BaseballStL) -- Adam Wainwright turned a not-so-quality start into his 20th quality start which helped bridge a comeback victory over the division-leading Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday.
Entering with eight days of rest, Wainwright labored through a 33-pitch first inning while tossing Andrew McCutchen his 17th home run, a two-run shot which landed barely over the right field wall 351 feet away. The Pirates added to their two-run lead with another home run, a 378-foot solo home run by Jordy Mercer, for a 3-0 deficit after two innings.
Wainwright, in search of win No. 14 and his fifth consecutive start of at least seven innings pitched, had thrown 50 pitches to get the first six outs. The latter achievement wasn’t looking probable.
“It’s been awhile since my last start,” Wainwright said. “You hate to make excuses, but it had to have played a little into my command early on.”
Both home runs came as a result of cutters that missed their location. The missed location was also the result of a season-high three walks issued by Wainwright, who began the season without walking a batter in his first 34.2 innings pitched.
After allowing the Pirates a 3-0 lead through two innings, Wainwright allowed only one hit through the next five innings while throwing 72 more pitches to set a season-high 122 thrown in the game. His streak of throwing at least seven innings remains intact and now sits at six games.
“He was able to just figure out a way to get outs and got some quick ones later on that kept him through the game in the seventh,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We would have been in bad shape if he wasn’t able to get it back under control.
“He never really did find his curveball today. It just shows you day-to-day you never know what you’re going to get and the guys that know how to compete find a way to keep you in it. That’s exactly what Waino did.”
Wainwright admitted he didn’t have his best stuff throughout his 25th start of the year, but was able to find enough to last through seven innings.
“That comes with settling in a little bit, knowing what you got that day and feeling your delivery a little bit more and just getting comfortable with the situation,” Wainwright said.
His rebound performance also might have been the key which led to the 4-3 14-inning comeback over the division-rival Pirates.
“That was probably the gutsiest performance we had all year -- giving up three in the first couple innings and his pitch count was way up there too,” Matheny said. “It was probably as high as we’ve had him early in the game.”
Wainwright wasn’t sure if he would agree with Matheny’s assessment.
“Well it started out as the ugliest performance of the year, I don’t know about gutsy,” Wainwright responded. “That story today -- the rest of this team just stepped up and played a great game. Pittsburgh kept coming at them, kept coming at them and kept making plays, and we kept hitting liners to people. They had crazy shifts on and it worked every time. But somehow we found a way to win that game. It was a huge win.”
Prior to Tuesday’s comeback, the Cardinals were 0-40 when trailing after eight innings. A costly error by Pirates right fielder Starling Marte in the ninth inning and a timely hit by Allen Craig pushed the game into extras, where the Cardinals had won only one of six games.
Both of those stats improved early Wednesday morning when Adron Chambers capped the comeback night with a single to score the winning run four hours and 55 minutes after Wainwright threw his first pitch.
But none of this may have happened if Wainwright didn’t put in the ‘gutsiest performance of the year.’