Wainwright dazzles as Pujols delivers first walk-off swing for Cardinals since 2011

St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols celebrates after hitting a sacrifice fly to score Tommy...
St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols celebrates after hitting a sacrifice fly to score Tommy Edman for the winning run during the 10th inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres Tuesday, May 31, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)(Jeff Roberson | AP)
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 1:38 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Time is a flat circle and Adam Wainwright seems to know it⁠—and relish in it.

The 40-year-old veteran starter tossed another gem Tuesday at Busch Stadium, traversing seven shutout innings while striking out a whopping 10 Padres hitters. It was the 13th game of Wainwright’s career with a double-digit strikeout total, tying Steve Carlton for third all-time on the franchise list (Bob Gibson, naturally, leads the category by a healthy margin, with 74 such games in his Cardinals career).

Though Wainwright did everything in his power to earn the W on Tuesday, he fell short when Giovanny Gallegos allowed a game-tying home run to Trent Grisham in the eighth. But that moment of misfortune laid the groundwork for something special, as it opened the door for Albert Pujols to walk off the Padres with a 10th-inning sacrifice fly to give the Cardinals a 3-2 win over San Diego.

“I think we all wanted to see Albert walk that off tonight,” Wainwright said.

But while his outing was still going, Wainwright wasn’t thinking a walk-off would be required. Even after throwing 115 pitches over seven innings, his between-inning ritual in the dugout remained the same. He wasn’t necessarily outwardly lobbying to remain in the game, but his actions on the bench told the tale.

“The more we went, the better I felt,” Wainwright said.

Though his body language suggested he still wanted another inning, Wainwright didn’t realize that his pitch count had gotten as high as it did. Miles Mikolas⁠—who threw 115 pitches in a loss on Saturday⁠—may have helped put some false information in Waino’s mind.

“He said that I didn’t get 115,” Wainwright announced. “He thought he had the lead⁠ (for highest pitch count of the season)—I told him he should have been more efficient.”

Several reporters stepped in to confirm that Mikolas had Wainwright’s pitch count tabulated incorrectly. It was, indeed, the same as Mikolas had thrown Saturday.

“So I did throw 115,” Wainwright declared. “Which is too many, by the way. You’ve got to go nine (innings). That’s way too many for seven. So that’s what I told him; we shouldn’t brag about that.”

Wainwright doesn’t generally do much bragging⁠—even on a night where Wainwright was at his best, lowering his season ERA from 3.12 to 2.75 while allowing just two base hits in the process. Not without following it up with something a little more self-deprecating, anyway.

“First time all year that I’ve commanded everything,” Wainwright said. “About time, huh? What took me so long?”

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol was willing to be a little more effusive in his praise.

“That was an absolute pitching tutorial,” Marmol said. “What he did was unbelievable.”

It was Wainwright’s most dominant start of the year. Yet, when your teammate is Albert Pujols, it’s inevitable that even on your best day, headlines can still be stolen.

With the Padres throwing lefty Blake Snell, the 42-year-old slugger started at DH on Tuesday. Pujols remained in the game for the duration as Nolan Gorman was unavailable due to lower back stiffness. Pujols’ presence was fortuitous in the 10th, particularly after the ‘Manfred Man’, the automatic runner placed at second base to begin extra innings, stole third base on the first pitch of Pujols’ at-bat.

With Paul Goldschmidt at first, Tommy Edman got a good jump off of second on a first-pitch fastball, compelling Pujols to let the pitch go by without a swing.

“Once I saw they were pitching to Albert, even when he got 0-2, I was just like, is there really any other guy⁠—maybe outside of Paul Goldschmidt⁠—that you’d want hitting right now?” Nootbaar wondered. Goldschmidt extended his hitting streak to 22 games with an RBI double Tuesday. “I mean, it’s Albert Pujols at Busch Stadium. Seems like a pretty easy answer.”

Marmol admitted he was glad that Goldschmidt didn’t take off for second on the play where Edman stole third. Had he taken second there, the Padres may have been compelled to walk Pujols rather than allow him to face lefty reliever Taylor Rogers.

“I’ll answer what I would do⁠—I would, yeah,” Marmol said. “I’m glad he didn’t go.”

San Diego conceivably held off from doing so in hopes that they could get Pujols to ground into an inning-ending double play⁠—a scenario that the Cardinals’ designated hitter was intent upon avoiding.

“Having (Edman) at third, I just want to stay away from the groundball double play⁠—which, I hold that record,” joked Pujols, aware of his place as MLB’s all-time leader in GIDPs. A veteran reporter quickly noted that he’ll never be caught in that category.

“Thanks for reminding me,” Pujols laughed.

But needing to put the ball in the air, Pujols did exactly that, lofting a line drive deep enough to left field to score Edman standing⁠—his first walk-off swing for the Cardinals since June 2011.

He actually credited Nootbaar for providing the opportunity. The St. Louis left fielder fired an outfield assist at 96.5 mph⁠—and Nootbaar was counting every decimal in the post-game⁠—to cut down the go-ahead run to end the top of the 10th inning with the tied score intact.

“Throwing a guy out at the plate like that with two outs gave us a boost and gave us an opportunity,” Pujols said. “We knew there was a pretty good chance that, with the middle of the lineup, we were going to come through and get that win.”