At last: Adam Wainwright shines to earn 200th career win

The Cardinals beat the Brewers on Monday at Busch Stadium as Wainwright delivered seven shutout innings in his best performance of the year.
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright celebrates after getting Milwaukee...
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright celebrates after getting Milwaukee Brewers' Carlos Santana to ground into a double play ending the top of the sixth inning of a baseball game Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)(Jeff Roberson | AP)
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 9:04 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - It was a grind. It didn’t happen the way he or anything else figured it would. And there were times throughout the difficult 2023 season when it felt like it might not happen at all. But Adam Wainwright’s perseverance endured, bringing him to Monday night at Busch Stadium.

After needing 12 tries at a career win No. 199, Wainwright wasted no time in achieving the real milestone once he had the opportunity.

In his first start with 200 wins within his reach, Wainwright grabbed the marquee victory by delivering his best performance of the season, shutting out the Brewers across seven innings in a 1-0 Cardinals’ win Monday night.

It was a moment created by that perseverance⁠—the drive to finish what he set out to accomplish⁠—that pushed Wainwright through to the end of a grueling path to get here.

“If he’s being really honest, he was held up by duct tape before that game started,” Cardinals manager Oli Marmol said after the game Monday. “For him to go out there and do what he did is highly impressive.”

Wainwright acknowledged that for much of this season, he simply hasn’t been healthy. His body hasn’t cooperated with what his competitive drive wanted to go out there and achieve. But through hours and hours with the training staff, he found a way to carry on. Even in games⁠—like Monday’s⁠—where his velocity was down and he didn’t have much to work with.

There were hints of it early in the season. Reality began to set in over in London. And it felt inevitable by the Fourth of July: This wasn’t necessarily going to be a season to remember for Adam Wainwright.

But a finish to remember? That was still on the table for the veteran right-hander.

“I do think that having to work as hard as I had to work for it made me savor it that much more,” Wainwright said. “There was a time where I really wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to keep going. Or if they were going to even let me keep going. But I’m sure glad I got to.

“That’s one of the most fun games I’ve ever pitched in my whole life... Glad I got to do it here, in front of our home fans.”

Monday was no cakewalk, either. There was no cornucopia of run support raining down to allow Wainwright to coast into this milestone. The lone run in the ballgame came courtesy of his batterymate Willson Contreras, who was emotional after the game in which a home run off his bat provided all the scoring that Wainwright would need for his momentous victory.

It was the bottom of the fourth when Contreras sent a screamer 114.7 mph off his bat toward the left field foul pole. He hit the tailing line drive so hard that it ran out of room to tail foul as Contreras tucked it just inside the pole to put the Cardinals on the board.

The blast was the 20th of the year for Contreras in his debut season with the Cardinals.

Through five scoreless innings and thanks to Contreras’ powerful swing, Wainwright had the lead he needed to qualify for his milestone 200th career win. But there wasn’t any doubt at that point about leaving him in the game.

Wainwright took advantage of a Milwaukee lineup that seemed content to attack aggressively throughout the night. Whether they would produce any runs against the 42-year-old veteran or not, the Brewers were intent on doing it quickly. Wainwright delivered 42 of his first 68 pitches for strikes through five innings, allowing a pair of hits while issuing a pair of walks. For the game, he would allow only four hits in total.

The sixth featured a lazy single to right for William Contreras, but it was erased on a Carlos Santana double play ball.

As Wainwright’s pitch count climbed into the 90s in the seventh, the Brewers advanced the tying runner into scoring position against Wainwright. Oli Marmol made a visit to the mound with an out in the inning.

Contreras was hoping to see him head back to the dugout by his lonesome.

“I said to myself, ‘Nah. This can’t happen,’” Contreras said with a side-eyed grin as he retold the story of the moment of Marmol’s mound visit. “I was almost telling Waino, ‘Don’t let him pull you out.’”

To the Cardinals manager, though, it was always going to be Wainwright’s inning. He just wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page in the biggest moment of the most important game the Cardinals would play the remainder of the year.

“Tonight when Oli came out in the seventh, he said, ‘You want this batter? And I said, ‘Yeah, I think you should give it to me,’” Wainwright shared with a grin after the game. “And he goes, all right, you’ve got the rest of this inning.’

“But in that spot, I felt in control and I felt like I was going to get out of there. I felt like I wanted me out there. There was some notion that I had that I might try to pitch that whole game⁠—but I think Oli made the right decision.”

As that potential game-tying runner Mark Canha broke for third, taking the base easily, Waino and Contreras were both focused on the man at the dish, Josh Donaldson.

The crowd rose to its feet before a 2-2 pitch, but Wainwright wasn’t ready to throw it. Through the noise of the crowd, he was having trouble getting clarity with Contreras through the PitchCom. For a delivery of this importance, Contreras dashed out to the mound to connect with Wainwright directly.

“He was calling something and I’m going ‘I don’t think that’s what I want,” Wainwright said. “I think I hear sinker... Nah, I don’t think so. In that moment, you gotta know. So he did a good job coming out there,” Wainwright said.

“There was only one pitch I wanted to throw to him in that spot.”

The curveball that Wainwright spun to Donaldson arrived with more altitude than most of his Uncle Charlies, but the location up in the zone got the batter to get under it enough to give Lars Nootbaar room in center field to circle underneath it for the final out of the inning.

That was the end to Wainwright’s night on the mound, but it wasn’t time for euphoria yet. Contreras said that he didn’t give his customary hug to Wainwright at that point⁠—he knew there was work left to do to secure his teammate’s milestone.

St. Louis reliever John King allowed the leadoff man to reach in the top of the eighth before Masyn Winn kicked off a 6-4-3 double play to keep the Brewers at bay. A diving attempt in shallow center fell short on a Sal Frelick pop fly later in the frame, but Ryan Helsley came on to strike out Williams Contreras to end the threat.

Helsley finished the job with a scoreless ninth, bringing the Busch Stadium crowd to its feet. The goal had been reached. Adam Wainwright was a 200-game winner in Major League Baseball.

Wainwright was in the training room going through his typical post-start routine when he saw and heard the final out of his 200th win. As he made his way back toward the field, his teammates were lined up to greet him. Wainwright returned to the playing surface and tipped his cap toward the sea of red still on its feet several minutes after the game had ended.

Being interviewed on the field, the nature of Wainwright’s longstanding bond with the city of St. Louis was the highlight of his words.

“I love this city,” he said.

In a year where it wasn’t certain that Adam Wainwright would get to enjoy a moment like this one, he delivered one more lasting memory for the city he loves.