Adam Wainwright erased any doubt that he's one of the best big game pitchers in baseball Wednesday to close out the Pittsburgh Pirates and send the St. Louis Cardinals to the National League Championship Series.
Wainwright's complete game performance allowed the Pirates only one run on eight hits. And that run came thanks to an extremely unfortunate string of circumstances. Infielder Matt Carpenter lost his footing on the lip of the outfield grass to let one chance for an inning-ending out to slip through Wainwright's fingers. On the next play shortstop Pete Kozma made a mental mistake on a grounder. Instead of stepping on second base to end the frame, he chose to throw to first base and the runner beat the ball. Then first baseman Matt Adams was in position to field a grounder down the first base line. But the ball hit the bag and bounded over Adams' head for a third-consecutive lucky base hit.
To his credit, Wainwright didn't buckle. He stepped off the back of the mound to take a breath and then got back to business, nailing down the final out.
The win made Wainwright 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA for his career in the post season. In five of his six playoff starts he's allowed one run or less. The only bad start he's had came in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS against the Washington Nationals when Wainwright, worn down in his first year back following Tommy John surgery, gave up six runs in 2 1/3 innings. But the Cardinals made their historic comeback and won the game with six runs in the last three innings.
There was little doubt Wainwright's intention was to pitch a complete game. And he emphasized that point when he sprinted from the dugout to the mound at the start of the ninth inning. When he arrived at the hill, the Cardinals ace punched his fist into his glove in Al Hrabosky style. Then, when the last out was recorded, he let out a primal scream reminiscent of Chris Carpenter's after winning the fifth game of the 2011 NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies.