My mom likes to worry. Being the mother of two strong young boys in my brother and I, she had a lot to worry about growing up. We would get into fights and test her patience. Here and there, she would put down rules but in the end, the madness of young testosterone couldn’t be stopped. She worried too much. When it was all said and done, my mom couldn’t help but worry. These days, I worry about my son Vinny in the same manner. As humans we like to worry because it is what we do. Baseballs fans take it to a whole new level.
Remember when we were worried about Adam Wainwright a couple of weeks ago? He had been quite human since the All Star Break after a superhuman first half of the 2014 season. His curveball was hanging. His fastball was easily timed. He pitched quality games but didn’t go deep into them often or dominate other clubs. Cardinal Nation panicked and the writers tried to conjure different ways of saying, “Keep Calm and Carry On” while grimacing in the background. What would happen to the Cards if Waino wasn’t himself for a prolonged period of time? What if that period of time stretched far into September as the Cards battled it out six shooter like with The Pirates and Brewers for the N.L. Central division? When your ace isn’t himself, the team eventually plummets.
Well, that worrying has been put to rest. Adam Wainwright pitched a complete game on Wednesday night. He struck out 5 Brewers, walked 1 and scattered seven hits. He needed 102 pitches to do it. It was his third shutout of the year and fifth complete game. When the Cards needed a big stop, Waino gave it to them. That is what aces do. There is something special about watching a prime Wainwright work. He has a swagger on the mound. He gets the ball and has no pause in his delivery. Everything is precise and deliberate. His dominance came at a perfect time. In a time of need with the Brewers gathering momentum after Tuesday’s extra inning win and facing desperation, Wainwright batted them down and reminded them how hard it is to topple the Cardinals when things are clicking. It was the second time in 10 days that Waino pitched a complete game victory over the Brewers.
Waino has been superb this season against his Central opponents.
Reds-2 starts, 15 innings, zero earned runs allowed.
Pirates-5 starts, 2-2 record, 2.38 ERA, 34 innings pitched.
Brewers-4 starts, 3-1 record, 2.97 ERA, 2 complete games, 30.1 innings pitched.
After an August where Wainwright’s ERA was 5.17, he has delivered three shut down starts in a row. The complete game on the getaway Sunday in Milwaukee to stamp a four game set win. An eight inning outing against the Colorado Rockies that could have easily been a complete game. Wednesday’s performance was the final piece of the puzzle for the cynics who thought Waino would come back to earth and revert back to his troubling form.
For all the troubles he faced for a few weeks, Waino’s numbers are still quite strong heading into his final 2 starts. Cy Young award worthy even.
19-9 record. 2.45 ERA. 171 strikeouts to 49 walks. Averages 102 pitches a game. 220 innings pitched. 1.05 WHIP. Opposing batters only hitting .225 against him. 7 complete games in the last three years. Those are Cy Young caliber numbers that will fall short again due to Clayton Kershaw’s excellence. A rough patch may have cost Waino in 2013. A rough patch and a lack of run support in the first half could doom his chances in 2014. Who cares? He is pitching for a World Series and not a precious individual award. Remember in October of 2013 who was standing over Kershaw in Game 6 of the NLCS? It was Michael Wacha, the second coming of Waino with a good dose of Chris Carpenter. In the end, it doesn’t matter who wins the Cy Young. It matters who wins the pennant and the World Series. Those are the legacy prizes players covet. The right players, like Wainwright and former Cardinal Albert Pujols, always knew what they were fighting for.
Ask Waino if he would rather have the two World Series titles or two of Kershaw’s Cy Young awards? Sure, Waino was a reliever in 2006 and was sidelined in 2011, but still, he pitched his team into serious contention in 2012 and 2013. He would prefer the premium hardware.
When the media talked to Waino at the Winter Warmup, he was still a little bitter about the World Series. While admitting the Red Sox were the better team and beat the Cards straight up, one could tell he wanted to get another shot at the Fall Classic and even the score. Beating the Red Sox on August 7th was a small token prize, even if the team barely represented the 2013 powerhouse. For Waino, the World Series is the ultimate goal. Cy Youngs are nice and all, but the trophy raised in late October is the biggest trophy of them all.
Wednesday night, Cards fans witnessed an ace returned to the pinnacle of dominance. There is winning and that’s fine. Kyle Lohse, tonight’s starter for the Brewers, knows about winning. Dominating is an entirely different thing. A pitcher takes the mound, takes the ball, and gives his team every chance to win. Sometimes, they do a little more. In addition to his complete game, Wainwright broke up Mike Fiers’ no hitter Wednesday in the 6th inning. A lot of pitchers are good enough. Adam Wainwright is great. Sometimes, fans take him for granted. I do my best to remember the kind of pitching he has demonstrated over the past two weeks.
Just put a badge on his chest and watch him go to work.