Walk in the park: Thanks to Wainwright, Cards cruise past Pirates

News-DemocratOctober 3, 2013 

Adam Wainwright the pitcher had a lot to do with the St. Louis Cardinals' Game 1 National League Division Series win over Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Adam Wainwright the hitter had something to do with it, too.

Wainwright gave up one run on three hits in seven innings, striking out nine in the Redbirds' 9-1 romp. But he was just as proud of an inning-opening walk that led to the Cards' seven-run third inning.

"Oh yeah, the starting pitcher's always going to take credit for something offensively, you know that," Wainwright said. "Couldn't have done it without me, right? I've got a feeling our hitters would have figured a way to get that done without me. But it was nice to get on base and have something happen."

Wainwright worked A.J. Burnett for the walk after falling behind on a 1-2 count, making his way to first base on a 3-2 pitch. After Matt Carpenter's single moved Wainwright to second, he and Carpenter watched Carlos Beltran hit a towering home run for a 3-0 lead.

Wainwright the pitcher turned Wainwright the hitter became Wainwright the fan for just a moment, pausing to gaze at Beltran's 443-foot blast into the second tier of the right-field seats.

"When I was on second base, I almost got caught up in the moment," Wainwright said. "I threw my hands up in the air as soon as he hit it. I knew it was gone.

"Then I just watched for a minute, because I knew it was VERY gone. And then I realized I had to run."

Wainwright the baserunner found his way home ahead of Carpenter and Beltran, then found his way back to the mound with a seven-run lead and 18 outs to go. But he bore down and notched his third postseason win as a Cardinal, leaving after 105 pitches with an eight-run lead in the seventh.

"When you get a big lead like that, the key is not to change anything," Wainwright said. "(You tell yourself) it's still an 0-0 ballgame. If you take that mindset, then you still attack hitters and you stay out of big counts. Usually you stay out of lots of ducks on the pond."

It was enough to have reporters comparing Wainwright to Chris Carpenter's stalwart playoff outings in recent years.

That wasn't a notion Wainwright was necessarily willing to embrace.

"I'd like to say we're going to have three or four dominant pitchers in this postseason, yet to be determined," Wainwright said. "But you can definitely count me in. I'd love to be that guy.

"Chris Carpenter, if I'm ever compared to him, I'll take that as a huge compliment. It's important to have somebody go out there that you can count on for sure. But I believe we have more than just me out there that can do that."

Wainwright's 20th win of 2013 -- he won 19 in the regular season, tied for most in the National League -- came as no surprise to Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.

"I thought he was very good: He had his good stuff going right from the beginning," Matheny said. "Breaking ball was sharp. Controlled the counts. He had everything really working from the top.

"When he does that, he's going to make for a long day for most people."

That's no surprise come from the Cardinals' ace: Wainwright led the league in innings pitched (241 2/3), complete games (five), starts (34) and complete games (five).

But his focus on the pitching task left to be done following the half-hour-plus third inning -- Wainwright walked to start it, and grounded out for the second out as the Cardinals batted around the lineup -- impressed Matheny as much as anything.

"You got to remember, that got started by a walk by our pitcher and a couple big walks in the middle," Matheny said. "He kept his focus (after) a long inning. Nobody knows exactly how that's going to treat a guy, especially when he's been up to bat and on base and running."

Turned out not to be a problem for Wainwright the onlooker.

"Our offense did an amazing job," he said. "I got two at-bats, and it kept me kind of hot. But, yeah, I made sure in the dugout I was kind of (loose) -- you don't want to do too much because you feel like you're showing up the other team if you're out there throwing warmup pitches on the side.

"But I kept my body loose. Stretched out a little bit, and just enjoyed that rally. That was amazing."

Joe Ostermeier, chairman of the St. Louis chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, has written about the Cardinals since their 1985 playoff run. He can be reached at (618) 239-2512, or at jostermeier@bnd.com.

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