Sunday’s Game Report: Cardinals 2, Cubs 1
By Rob Rains
As Adam Wainwright saw Anthony Rizzo swing, the Cardinals pitcher had the same reaction as most of the fans at sold-out Busch Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
“In my mind when he hit it I thought, ‘Oh no, he jammed one in on me,” Wainwright said. “Kolten (Wong) came out of nowhere and made a great play.”
The leaping, highlight-reel catch by Wong in short right field came with the potential tying run on second base, the Cardinals clinging to a 1-0 lead, with two outs in the eighth inning.
“I made the exact pitch I wanted to make and Rizzo put a great swing on it,” Wainwright said. “It’s a pitch I’ve had a lot of success with him on over the years. He and I have had a lot of great battles.
“Kolten got a great jump on it. There’s not a better defensive second baseman in baseball, there’s just not. That’s the truth of it. He’s an amazing fielder and we love having him behind us.”
It might be one of the plays shown on the award video in November after Wong is presented his first Rawlings Gold Glove.
Considering all of the variables involved – the timing, the difficulty of the catch, the score – manager Mike Shildt thought it might have been one of the best plays in Wong’s career.
“We’ve all seen him make some unbelievable plays,” Shildt said. “It was pretty special. When the ball was hit you could feel the determination, his hunger to make the play. The combination (of everything involved) will make it one of the better plays you will see.”
The play came on what would turn out to be Wainwright’s 126th and final pitch of his afternoon, a day in which he allowed only two hits – the second a flare just inside the left field by Kyle Scwarber with one out in the eighth.
Wainwright’s pitch count got that high – equaling the third most pitches he has ever thrown in a game – because of a career high seven walks.
He was allowed to go back out for the eighth by Shildt after the manager came over to him in the dugout in the bottom of the seventh.
“I looked him in the eye,” Shildt said. “I wanted to take his temperature. He said he had plenty of gas left … He was still making pitches.”
Wainwright made another one following the hit by Schwarber, which came after a one-out walk, to strike out Kris Bryant for the third time.
That brought Rizzo to the plate and with a 2-0 count, Wainwright threw a 92 mph four-seam fastball which turned into Wong’s great catch.
“When I saw the ball go up I knew I was the only one who was going to have a chance to make the play and luckily I came up with it,” Wong said.
What was almost as important in Wainwright’s mind as Wong’s catch was the trust his manager put in him to send him back to the mound for the eighth inning.
“I appreciate him trusting me right there,” Wainwright said. “It is so easy to go to some of our great arms in the bullpen; so easy to go ‘you did a pretty good job let’s get that bullpen in there.’ I think he saw something in me, that I was out there competing as hard as anyone was going to compete. He trusted in me and believed in me and that means a lot to me, it does a lot for a pitcher’s confidence.”
The win completed a sweep of the three-game series and extended the Cardinals’ winning streak to four games.
Here is how the game broke down:
At the plate: The Cardinals had only two hits off Cole Hamels in seven innings and scored their first run without a hit in the fifth. Jedd Gyorko drew a one-out walk, stole second and continued to third on a throwing error and scored on Wong’s sacrifice fly … Their hits were a third-inning single by Wong and a leadoff single by Paul DeJong in the fourth … They scored their second run in the eighth when Wong singled, stole second and came home on a pinch-hit single by Matt Carpenter, batting for Wainwright.
On the mound: The only hit allowed by Wainwright through the first seven innings was a clean one-out single to left by Bryant in the sixth. Wainwright struck out eight and beneffitted from three inning-ending double plays, two coming on line drives … It was the most shutout innings for Wainwright since a three-hit shutout of Miami in 2016 … Jordan Hicks relieved to start the ninth but allowed a one-out walk and a single and was replaced by John Gant, who got the final two outs, one of which drove in Chicago’s run and spoiled the shutout.
Key stat: In addition to the spectacular game-saving plays, the Cardinals infielders have been making all of the routine ones as well. They have not committed an error since May 8, a span of 20 games.
Worth noting: Andrew Knizner made his major-league debut and came within two outs of becoming only the third catcher in franchise history to call a shutout in his first game. The only catchers to do that were Marc Hill in 1973 and Tom Nieto in 1984 … According to Baseball Reference, the last Cardinals pitcher to work at least eight shutout innings and walk seven or more batters was Kurt Kepshire, in a shutout in 1984 … Alex Reyes allowed seven runs, including three home runs, in 4 2/3 innings for Memphis on Sunday … Nolan Gorman hit his 10th home run for Peoria.
Looking ahead: The amateur draft begins on Monday night, when the Cardinals will have the 19th and 58th overall picks. The Cardinals have the day off before hosting the Reds in a three-game series beginning on Tuesday night.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains