By Rob Rains
They have been linked together for 15 years, so it was only fitting that after one of the most memorable games in his storied career on Sunday, the first person Adam Wainwright embraced was Yadier Molina.
Celebrating his 39th birthday, Wainwright did what no pitcher in the major leagues has done since 1961 – throw a complete game on his 39th or older birthday. Not since 40-year-old Warren Spahn did it for the Milwaukee Brewers has a pitcher given himself, and his team, that kind of present.
Wainwright knew before he went to bed on Saturday night what he wanted most for his birthday, and he was determined to make it happen.
After the Cardinals had suffered their fourth consecutive loss on Saturday, in 12 innings, Wainwright sent a text message to manager Mike Shildt, telling him, “I got you, you don’t t even have to ask.”
“I knew our bullpen was taxed, the guys were tired and they just needed a break,” Wainwright said. “I know nobody feels sorry for us, but this game is such a grind mentally to play that many games and not have any off days, then go into extra innings. There was a lot of things going into today’s start.
“I told Jenny (his wife) last night I was going to pitch the whole game. I told John Gant and a couple of other relievers the other day, ‘Take today off. I got you.’ And I wanted to deliver on that.”
Wainwright threw 122 pitches in his first complete game since July 16, 2016.
Wainwright scattered four hits, one of which was a two-run homer, as he became the first pitcher in the major leagues to get a win as a starter on his 39th birthday since Derek Lowe of the Indians in 2012.
Wainwright, getting his third career start on his birthday, also extended an unusual streak – the Cardinals have now won 11 consecutive games when their starter was celebrating his birthday. The last pitcher to lose a start on his birthday was Jeff Weaver in 2006, the only time a Cardinals starter has lost on his birthday since 1994.
Making the first start of his career against the Indians, Wainwright recorded a season-high nine strikeouts, raising his record to 3-0 and lowering his ERA to 2.65.
When it was over, he walked toward the plate and he and Molina both pulled out their masks to cover their faces before embracing.
“I saw him put his on and for a brief second there I forgot we were living in a 2020 world right now where everything is a little different,” Wainwright said. “I know six feet apart is the real deal but there is not anything in the world that could have kept me from hugging Yadier Molina right there.”
Even the opposing team saluted Wainwright from the dugout when they game ended on a fly ball to left, caught by rookie Dylan Carlson, who had yet to celebrate his seventh birthday when Wainwright was making his major-league debut in September 2005.
“That’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever had happen to me on the field, honestly,” Wainwright said. “That meant a lot. To have them call me back out and kind of say. ‘Job well done … that was special. I will never forget it.”
Wainwright admitted he had to “take a little cry break” before he composed himself for his post-game media zoom session.
“When you think you are done three years ago and then you’re able to throw a complete game a couple of years later it’s a crazy game,” Wainwright said. “I’m so blessed. I just went in the batting cage and thanked God for the opportunity to even be out there, much less pitch the whole game.”
Molina said he had trouble sleeping Saturday night, having a feeling that Sunday’s game could be special, the 269th time in their careers that he and Wainwright have been the starting battery since 2007.
The game also was a milestone for Molina – the 2,000th game of his career.
“To be honest, I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about it.” said Molina, speaking to the media for the first time since the season resumed. “It’s really special to be in this moment with him and to be with him for many years.
“On his birthday, to do that, it’s unbelievable. It’s going to be a moment that we remember forever. It’s a great moment for him and a great moment for me to be a part of that. I’m just happy for him.”
Here is how the game broke down:
At the plate: The Cardinals loaded the bases with one out in the second on two singles and a walk before Dexter Fowler doubled in two runs and Carlson followed with a two-run single just inside the first base line. Carlson had been just 2-of-20 with runners in scoring position … Paul Goldschmidt doubled in the third and later scored on a balk before Fowler hit his fourth home run leading off the seventh … Paul DeJong doubled with two outs in the eighth, his third hit and second double, and then scored on a single by Molina … Kolten Wong was 0-of-3 with a walk. He is in a 1-of-18 slump and combined with Tommy Edman, the leadoff hitters are a combined 2-of-24 in the last seven games.
On the mound: Wainwright was at 100 pitches after the seventh and 110 after the eighth inning. He retired the last 11 Indians hitters in order. He issued two walks in tossing only the third complete game for the Cardinals since the beginning of the 2018 season. The other two were thrown by Miles Mikolas.
Key stat: The back-to-back hits by Fowler and Carlson in the second inning were one more than the team’s combined total for the last three games with runners in scoring position. In those games the team was a combined 1-of-24 with a runner on second or third over 29 innings.
Worth noting: The trade deadline is 3 p.m. St. Louis time on Monday but it is not likely the Cardinals will make any significant moves … Molina’s two hits gave him 1,982 for his career, moving past Red Schoendienst for sixth place all-time in Cardinals history … Ryan Helsley, recovering from COVID-19, and Matt Wieters, out with a broken toe, will go on the road trip and likely will be activated some time this week … Former Cardinal Jose Martinez was traded Sunday from the Tampa Bay Rays to the Cubs, where he likely will be used as the designated hitter against left-handed pitchers.
Looking ahead: The Cardinals will open a three-game series Monday night in Cincinnati with Dakota Hudson getting the start. The Cardinals will then be back in Chicago beginning Friday night for a five-game series against the Cubs which includes a doubleheader on Saturday.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo courtesy KSDK.
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE: AUDIO
AUDIO: Cardinal’s Rewind Show with Rob Rains and Mike Reeves. 8-30-2020: CLICK HERE
CARDINALS AUDIO: Mike Shildt, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina 8-30-2020:CLICK HERE