Adam Wainwright completes long journey to 200 career wins with 1-0 victory over Brewers

By Rob Rains

In what has been a long, challenging final season for Adam Wainwright, what happened on Monday night will be something he will never forget.

Wainwright was able to turn back the clock, find a version of himself that he hadn’t seen for a long time, and finally have a chance to celebrate the 200th win of his Cardinals’ career.

It came in a 1-0 win over the Brewers at Busch Stadium in which he worked the first seven innings, did not allow a run for the first time this season and felt like the pitcher he has been throughout most of his 18-year career.

“For at least tonight I was a real pitcher out there,” Wainwright said. “I was the guy I want to be – seven innings, shutout, couple of hits, got through a couple of tough AB’s out there. Made adjustments, worked in and out, up and down.

“For tonight I was me.”

Wainwright got the only run he needed on a fourth-inning home run from catcher Willson Contreras, who was almost as emotional as Wainwright after the game.

Wainwright became only the fifth active pitcher to reach 200 career wins and it might be a while before any pitcher gets to that milestone again. The active pitcher who is next on the career victory list is Johnny Cueto with 144. There are only 18 active pitchers with 100 or more career wins – the next highest total on the Cardinals is 54, by Steven Matz.

For more than two months this season, there were doubts about whether Wainwright would be able to get to the 200 mark, even from himself. He went 11 starts between June 24 and Sept. 7 without a win, stuck on 198 for his career.

He finally was able to get 199 last week in Baltimore, setting him up for the joyous moment at the only home stadium Wainwright has known in his career.

“Having to work as hard as I had to work for it made me savor it that much more,” he said. “There was a time where I wasn’t really sure if I was going to be able to keep going or if they were even going to let me keep going.

“But sure glad I got to, and turn things around as of late, make some adjustments and figure out how to pitch with the stuff I’m working with.

“That’s one of the most fun games I’ve ever pitched in my whole life. It certainly will go down as a top three moment for me, ever, baseball wise. I’m glad I got to do it here in front of our fans.”

Pitching with his back taped, just one more obstacle he had to overcome, Wainwright allowed just four hits, walked two and recorded three strikeouts.

His 93rd and final pitch came to Josh Donaldson in the seventh inning, which turned into a fly out to center, stranding the would-be tying run on third.

As he walked off the field, Wainwright knew he likely was done for the night.

“It was a special walk off,” he said.

Wainwright had to sweat out the final six outs that stood between him and the victory. John King allowed a leadoff single in the eighth, then got a double play. After another single, Ryan Helsley relieved and ended the inning by striking out Willson Contreras’ brother William.

In the ninth, Wainwright was watching the television in the training room as Helsley retired the Brewers in order, the final out coming on a popup to second baseman Tommy Edman in short right.

“I hugged Jason Shutt and Adam Olson, the two guys in the training room who have absolutely helped me beyond measure,” Wainwright said. “Going down in the tunnel and seeing the guys, I will never forget that.”

It was the 52nd time in Wainwright’s career that he has pitched at least seven shutout innings in a game, but it was only the fifth time he did it in a 1-0 game. The last time that happened was in 2014.

It wasn’t the strikeout of Carlos Betran in the 2006 NLCS. It wasn’t the final out of the World Series – but considering everything that went into Wainwright getting to this moment led to the emotions he displayed during a post-game interview on the field.

“It’s been a duct tape kind of year for me,” Wainwright said. “I’ve had my arm taped a few times, tonight I had my back taped up. It’s been really tough. When I’m healthy and going full steam I can pitch pretty good. I’m still confident I could do that if I’m healthy but I’ve not been healthy all year.

“The times I felt like I was healthy or getting there I think it was just me trying to talk myself into it. I am somewhat proud of the fact that it’s hard to keep this guy down. Every time I got knocked down I got back up.

“I got knocked down a bunch and I had to get back up a bunch. But you know what I had? I had an incredible family behind me, I had incredible teammates and coaching staff behind me that lifted me up and encouraged me the whole time. They never let me get down on myself. I don’t even know how many texts I got after games where I was feeling the lowest of lows and a teammate would text me and say ‘We believe in you. We know you’re going to finish strong and you’re going to help us win games.’

“You know what that does for your mind? That’s an incredibly powerful thing … There’s no doubt I’m living prayer to prayer out there, not even pitch to pitch. I know Goldy has told me several times that he stays in prayer while I’m out there pitching, praying for me, trying to finish the job.”

Even if he has one or two more starts left in his 42-year-old right arm, Wainwright finished the job on Monday night.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports

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