Sunday’s Game Report: Cardinals 3, Pirates 0

Sunday’s Game Report: Cardinals 3, Pirates 0

By Rob Rains, STLSportsPage.com

There likely are only a very few safer bets in baseball than predicting that the Cardinals will win when Adam Wainwright starts against the Pirates.

It happened again on Sunday, and as always seems to be the case lately, just when the Cardinals really needed a victory, it was Wainwright who got it done.

Wainwright, just over a week away from his 40th birthday, allowed just two hits to the Pirates over eight innings as the Cardinals, after two frustrating losses to the last-place Pirates, salvaged the final game of the series at Busch Stadium.

In three starts this season against Pittsburgh, Wainwright has allowed only one run in 23 innings, continuing his remarkable string of success against the team he has now defeated more than any other in his career – 20 times in 40 career starts.

In his last 16 starts against the Pirates, the Cardinals have gone 14-2. Wainwright is now 9-0 in those games with seven no-decisions and has won each of his last seven starts against the Pirates.

The last time Wainwright lost a game to the Pirates was on April 3, 2016.

During the seven-game winning streak that dates back to 2019, Wainwright has allowed a combined eight runs over 47 innings, with four of those runs coming in one game.

“I kind of feel in a groove really all the time,” Wainwright said. “I match up well with them. They’ve got some players over there that are sneaky talented and can really put a ball out of the park quick on you. These are big league players that you can’t get complacent on for one second.”

That was evident in the ninth inning, with Wainwright watching on television in the training room, when the Pirates got two runners on base before Lars Nootbaar made a potential game-saving leaping catch in front of the bullpen.

Wainwriht’s performance once again impressed his teammates and manager.

“Textbook,” said Paul Goldschmidt. “That’s how you teach kids to pitch and how to play. He just lives it out daily so hopefully everybody is watching.”

Wainwright became the oldest pitcher in the majors to throw eight or more shutout innings with nine or more strikeouts since Bartolo Colon did it in 2015.

“They say age is only a number and I believe that,” said manager Mike Shildt. “It’s a mindset. I don’t bring up his age. I reward his accomplishments and marvel at it. … I’m a big believer in what your mind can control and he’s got the mentality  that he expects to go out and dominate. He expects to go nine.

“People can say anything they want; ‘I want to do this, I expect to do that’ but he creates a high standard but then he does all the hard work to be able to satisfy those high standards … Anybody can say they want to do something, but what are you going to do to make it happen? He does it at every turn.”

The good news for Wainwright, and the Cardinals, is that his next start will come next Saturday – against the Pirates.

“I imagine they’re going to try to do some different things,” Wainwright said. “If they’re watching I will do everything differently. Sounds like a scouting report, sorry can’t talk too much about that.”

Here is how Sunday’s game broke down:

At the plate: For the first time, the Cardinals split up Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, with Tyler O’Neill sliding between them and hitting third … Goldschmidt stayed hit, doubling and scoring on a single by Yadier Molina in the first before hitting his 19th homer in the fifth … O’Neill reached base three times on a walk, a single and when he was hit by a pitch … Arenado went 0-of-4 and is now 3-of-26 in the first six games on the homestand … The Cardinals added an insurance run in the ninth on an RBI single from Harrison Bader.

On the mound: The only hits off Wainwright were a bunt single by Gregory Polanco with one out in the second and a double by Kevin Newman with one out in the fifth. He did not walk a batter and retired the last 11 hitters he faced, finishing his eight innings with back-to-back strikeouts to give him nine in his 106-pitch gem that raised his season record to 12-7 with his 179th career victory … That victory wasn’t secured until Nootbaar’s catch, which followed a pair of two-out hits off Alex Reyes. Colin Moran hit the drive to just in front of the wall, which Nootbaar caught to give Reyes his 29th save.

Key stat: This was only the eighth time in Wainwright’s 351 career starts that he has worked at least eight scoreless innings with nine or more strikeouts, the first time he has done that since May 25, 2014. It was only the third time he did that without allowing a walk.

Worth noting: Before the game the Cardinals activated Kwang Hyun Kim from the disabled list and optioned Junior Fernandez to Memphis. Kim will work out of the bullpen for the time being with the Cardinals content with their five current starters. Shildt said Kim would have needed at least one more rehab start before he could have come back as a starter, even if the team had an opening in the rotation … The Cardinals could make another roster move on Tuesday, when Dylan Carlson is eligible to come off the injured list. He has been out with a sprained right wrist/

Looking ahead: After a day off Monday the Cardinals will conclude the homestand with a two-game series against the Tigers beginning Tuesday night. Jack Flaherty is the scheduled starter.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out STLSportsPage.com. Rob Rains, Editor.