Wednesday’s Game Report: Cardinals 4, Pirates 0
By Rob Rains
Adam Wainwright has deservedly received a lot of praise this season as the Cardinals best, and most consistent, pitcher in the most recent chapter in his legendary career.
What Wainwright did on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh will only add to his legacy.
Wainwright, 18 days shy of his 40th birthday, needed just 88 pitches to shut out the Pirates on only two hits, the first time in his career he finished off a shutout with less than 100 pitches.
Since pitch-count data began being kept in 1988, only one pitcher in Cardinals history threw fewer pitches in a shutout, a 79-pitch gem by Bob Tewksbury, a one-hitter against Houston on Aug. 17, 1990.
The only hits allowed by Wainwright were both by Colin Moran, an infield single in the second and another single leading off the fifth. He retired the last 15 hitters he faced, getting some great defensive help by Harrison Bader in the final two innings.
Wainwright even matched the number of hits he allowed by himself, getting a ground-rule double and a single, driving in his first run of the year.
It was the 11th shutout for Wainwright in his career, his first since July 16, 2016. The fewest pitches he had thrown in any of the previous 10 shutouts was 102. It was the sixth of those shutouts when he allowed either one or two hits.
The last Cardinal to throw a shutout with less than 100 pitches was Chris Carpenter on Sept. 7, 2011, a 97-pitch game, a year after Jaime Garcia tossed an 89-pitch shutout. Wainwright became the oldest pitcher in the major leagues with a shutout on less than 100 pitches since 43-year-old Jamie Moyer in 2006.
The term that has become the name for a shutout with less than 100 pitches is a “Maddux” in honor of former Braves and Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux – the brother of Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux – who did that 14 times during his Hall of Fame career.
“I didn’t look at my pitch count all day because I knew it was low, but I didn’t want to get anything in my mind,” Wainwright said. “I thought for the first time I had a chance at a Maddux. I’ve taken a couple into the ninth inning with like 90 or 88 (pitches) and just went over it.
“All I wanted to do was think about executing pitches and keep it simple.”
When Wainwright was a young pitcher, growing up in Georgia, he watched Maddux and had newspaper clippings hung up on his bedroom wall. He then got a chance to talk to Maddux during spring training after he was drafted by the Braves.
“I got to talk pitching with him a few times, but one of my biggest regrets in life is he told me he would be in the weight room every morning at 6 a.m. sitting on the leg extension machine doing a crossword puzzle if I wanted to come talk pitching with him, and I thought that was too early in the morning,” Wainwright said. “I should have done that. What an idiot. Just dumb youth.”
As good as this season has been on the mound for Wainwright, it’s been another story at the plate – until Wednesday night. He had only one hit in 36 at-bats this season prior to the game, then doubled that total in consecutive at-bats.
It was his first game with two hits and an RBI since April 21, 2017. His RBI single came after the Pirates intentionally walked Tommy Edman.
“That always gets under my skin a little bit,” Wainwright said. “I’ve been working on my offense a lot.”
Here’s how Wednesday night’s game broke down:
At the plate: The Cardinals gave Wainwright the only run he would need in the fourth. Paul Goldschmidt singled with one out, advanced to second on a walk and scored on a single by Yadier Molina … Wainwright lost a chance for an RBI in the fifth when his double bounced over the wall, forcing Paul DeJong to stop at third … Wainwright’s single in the sixth capped a three-run inning, following a two-run double by DeJong on an 0-2 pitch. Molina had doubled earlier in the inning, his first extra-base hit in 97 plate appearances … Goldschmidt was on base four times, also drawing three walks.
On the mound: Wainwright struck out seven and did not allow a runner past first base. He threw a first pitch strike to 15 of the 28 hitters he faced. It was the fifth consecutive start in which he threw at least seven innings and he is now 4-0 in that stretch with an ERA of 1.95 … In the first two games of the series, the Cardinals have allowed just three hits to the Pirates in 54 at-bats.
Key stat: This was the seventh consecutive game for the Cardinals scoring four or more runs, their longest streak doing that this season. The Cardinals record this year scoring four or more runs is 42-24. Their previous longest streak had been four games, back in May.
Worth noting: The Cardinals have now won nine consecutive games in Pittsburgh, their longest winning streak in the history of PNC Park. They also have won 19 of their last 21 games there dating back to 2018 … Miles Mikolas’ tour of the minor-leagues will continue with a rehab start on Saturday night in Peoria. He already has started games at Memphis and Springfield on his latest rehab assignment, and earlier this season pitched at Palm Beach … Josjua Baez, the team’s pick in the second round of this year’s draft, hit his first home run on Wednesday. He is playing for the Florida Complex League team, whose pitchers recorded 20 strikeouts in that game.
Looking ahead: Wade LeBlanc will get the start on Thursday as the Cardinals go for a sweep of the series. The day game begins at 11:35 a.m. St. Louis time.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains