(BaseballStL) — In danger of reaching their longest losing streak of the season, the Cardinals rode the another deep start from Adam Wainwright into the win column Saturday.
The 32-year-old ace went eight innings on 104 pitches, striking out seven and allowing only one run. With 10 groundouts and control of the pace throughout, Wainwright did exactly what a top-of-the-rotation guy is supposed to: stop the skid.
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“Waino gave us exactly what we needed,” Matt Holliday said. “He gave us a great start, gave us a chance to get that win and have a chance to split the series tomorrow and end the home stand on a high note.”
Wainwright gave up a run in the third, when opposing pitcher Cole Hamels followed Cody Asche’s single with a one-bagger of his own.
“He was the reason they scored the first run,” Wainwright said afterward. “A good hit and run play there and get first and third with 1-2-3 coming up. At that point I decided I have get outs.” He got one from Jimmy Rollins, but it was a deep fly ball to the track in right center, and Asche tagged and scored.
It would be the only run posted by Philadelphia on the day.
Wainwright managed to dodge major trouble early as he reacclimated himself to game action. After skipping his previous start with elbow tendonitis, all eyes were on the Georgia native as he returned to to the hill.
“You just never know sometimes how you’re going to respond when you haven’t thrown very much. You know you might be a little off your command. But I put some good time in the last few days to make sure I was back to normal,” he said. “I was a little wayward early on with my fastball command and got better as the game wore on.”
Though his four seam heater came around, his two seamer was giving him trouble for most of the game. As he does perhaps better than anyone else in baseball, Wainwright adapted on the fly.
“I varied the speeds of my cutter some, threw a couple sliders,” he said. “I was ust underneath my two seamer today. When you do that and it’s hard to make an adjustment, sometimes you go to a different pitch so I was able to change speeds off of my breaking ball and my cutter and work my four seamer a little bit more on the corners. That’s pitching. That’s what it is.”
To come back and hurl so effectively against a surging Phillies offense was no doubt a breath of fresh air for a frustrated Cardinal clubhouse. In the midst of a tight Cy Young discussion, Wainwright’s comeback performance is the mark of an elite pitcher.
“That’s the reason he’s, if not the best pitcher, he’s in the top three,” Holliday said, adding his starter looked the same as he did before the hiatus.
For his part, the Cardinal left fielder gave the Birds, and Wainwright, the win with a go-ahead RBI double in the eighth. After Matt Carpenter walked to lead off the inning, Craig flew harmlessly to center. Holliday stepped in for his final at bat, having gone o-fer on the day.
“At that point in the game you’re really looking at having a chance to win if you can just scratch one run. I got into a 3-2 count which, with him, doesn’t guarantee you anything,” Holliday said.
Hamels dealt a change up that number seven hammered into left center to score Carpenter.
“It’s the eighth inning and he’s thrown 115 pitches. You’d think at some point fatigue would set in on a day like today with the heat. Whether that’s what happened or he just left the ball up, good pitchers still make mistakes.”
It was the mistake that pushed Cole Hamels from the game after striking out eight on 120 pitches.
The misstep was one of only a handful either starter made on the day, which has become the norm with the two meet.
“I think we knew. Both of us knew. I spoke to him yesterday for a little bit and both of us knew that we were in for a battle,” Wainwright said at his locker. “That’s why we get paid the big bucks right?”
Not only did the two battle on the mound, but at the plate as well. Wainwright ripped a double off Hamels, and the Philly starter notched a single and a double of his own to counter.
Appropriately, they have now fought to a 2-2 draw in their careers.
“We’re expected to go out there and compete to the top of our ability every time. I would have expected nothing different from him,” Wainwright said. Then he smiled and added, “I didn’t expect those hits, but I expected him to pitch like that.”
The Cardinals have a chance to split the series with a matinee Sunday at 1:15.