317 starts later, it’s just like riding a bike for Waino and Yadi

With his favorite receiver back behind the plate, Wainwright tossed seven scoreless innings as the Cardinals shut out the Cubs 6-0 on Tuesday at Busch Stadium.
St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) talks with starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50)...
St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) talks with starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo / Scott Kane)(Scott Kane | AP)
Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 2:27 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - When Cubs outfielder Rafael Ortega decided to take off for second base on a 3-2 pitch by Adam Wainwright to Seiya Suzuki in the top of the first inning Tuesday night at Busch Stadium, he should have considered his decision more carefully.

After all, Ortega was a Cardinals farmhand for a couple of seasons between 2014 and 2015⁠—did he learn nothing about Yadier Molina in that time?

In his first opportunity to impact his very first game back from a six-week stint on the IL, Yadi snatched the Wainwright curveball and fired a dart to Tommy Edman at the second base bag⁠—a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out. For anyone in need of a lesson, school with the GOAT was back in session.

“It was a good throw. I set him up perfectly for that,” Wainwright slyly grinned. “Just kidding. I’m glad to have him back. That’s what he does. Blocks great. Throws guys out. He calls a great game. The greatest catcher of our lifetime.”

Though the road toward history had run into a detour for the past month-and-a-half with Molina nursing a knee ailment, Waino and Yadi got back on the bicycle again Tuesday for start No. 317⁠—seven from tying the all-time MLB record for starts by a single battery⁠—and didn’t miss a beat. Wainwright tossed seven scoreless innings en route to his eighth win of the year and the 192nd of his big-league career as the Cardinals shut out the Cubs 6-0.

“What do they have⁠—How many starts is it? 300-and-somethin’?” Paul Goldschmidt asked incredulously of Tuesday’s winning veteran battery. “There’s like one person out there, they probably don’t need the PitchCom. They just know what to throw. But it’s very rare to have something like that and it’s fun to watch.”

Wainwright permitted just six hits and did not allow a walk against the Cubs lineup, needing 106 pitches to post seven consecutive goose eggs before turning the game over the Jordan Hicks and new Cardinals reliever Chris Stratton. But the duo of 40-year-olds wasn’t the only element of the Cardinals firing on all cylinders over their longtime rival on Tuesday.

With the weight of the trade deadline perhaps lifted from the shoulders of those that remained within the St. Louis clubhouse, the Cardinals put together a true ‘team win’ as the offense collected three homers and 11 hits to support a sterling effort by the pitching staff. Dylan Carlson joined sluggers Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado in leaving the yard on what had to have been a cathartic fifth-inning swing for the 23-year-old outfielder whose name had been widely discussed in trade rumors over the past week.

Though John Mozeliak pulled Carlson aside during the team’s road trip in Washington D.C. this past weekend to reinforce the club’s belief in him amid speculation that he could be involved in a trade offer for Juan Soto, officially making it through deadline day with his spot on the Cardinals still intact had to be a relief for Carlson. Soto was ultimately traded from the Nationals to the Padres earlier Tuesday after the Cardinals were unwilling to include Carlson in a potential deal.

“The way the news was reported, it’s gonna give our young guys a lot of confidence knowing that we could have had one of the best players on the planet if we wanted to get rid of them or trade them⁠—and we didn’t want to,” Wainwright said Tuesday night. “That’s a big pat on the back for some of our young guys to understand that they’re really talented and loved and appreciated. Tons of confidence in them to go out there and be great players for us. If not, we would have traded them for one of the greatest players on the planet. And we didn’t⁠—because we believe in these guys.”

Not only did St. Louis refuse to trade Carlson, but the team’s trust in his abilities was an unspoken aspect of the Cardinals’ willingness to send Harrison Bader to the Yankees for pitching help Tuesday afternoon. Carlson has proven himself defensively in center field during Bader’s recent absence due to foot soreness.

“This is a kid that’s very quiet personality-wise, but very confident,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “Today was a great example of showing what he’s capable of doing and he’ll do it for a long time.

“The reality is, everybody included, we don’t even know what’s possible for this kid. We’re seeing a glimpse of what he’s capable of doing, but this is a player that’s just growing into the role, getting used to the league, and starting to feel confident in what he’s capable of doing. The more we continue to roll down this journey with him, we can see a very impressive player.”

Carlson flashed those traits Tuesday with a sprawling catch to take away a base hit and a two-run homer from the lead-off spot that helped the Cardinals solidify the victory. Ultimately, though, Carlson and the rest of the crew were merely following the good vibes set by the two longest-standing Cardinals who have been doing it together since the beginning.

“It’s like it was meant to be,” Goldschmidt commented on the first-inning throw that drew an ovation from the home crowd that was excited to cheer on its franchise catcher once again. “We’re happy he’s back.”