The St. Louis Cardinals’ Wednesday night game against the Colorado Rockies turned out to be the game Redbirds rooters have been waiting to see all year.
The St. Louis ace, who has been uncharacteristically erratic with an earned run average north of for the first six weeks of the season, seemed to finally have all his pitches working. The result was his best game of 2016 -- by far.
I’ll readily admit that Waino is one of my all-time favorite Cardinals. But his frustrating inability to get things together earlier this season started to convince me that maybe all his injuries had taken a toll.
So it was extremely encouraging to see him look like his vintage self against a potent Colorado offense.
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Wainwright tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings with six hits and one walk allowed. He struck out five.
It wasn’t a perfect outing. Wainwright surrendered a triple to the first hitter he faced. But, as he would say after the game, he’s found the ability to be “dangerous” again. The ace kept his composure and pitched his way out of the jams in which he found himself -- including the ones caused by the still shaky St. Louis defense.
Wainwright had to get six outs in that first frame. Centerfielder Randal Grichuk nearly ran down the leadoff triple -- only to have the ball glance off his glove when he got there. Wainwright gave up hard contact and the hit was earned. But it seemed like Grichuk overcame the toughest obstacle to making the play when he covered so much ground to get to the ball. Then he literally dropped the ball on completing the play.
The Cardinals got a break when the runner at third tried to score on a ball hit directly to third baseman Matt Carpenter who threw home for the out.
But with a runner on first and one out -- when there should have been two down and the bases clean -- shortstop Aledmys Diaz booted a perfect double play chance to turn what should have ended the inning into a major threat.
The next batter lined a ball up the middle which Wainwright snared with his glove. A line out to right ended the inning with no harm done.
It was a big deal to see him survive the unnecessarily long first inning. Up to this point, Wainwright seemed to wear down and/or get frustrated when he got strung out into longer innings.
Wainwright allowed two singles in the third and a lead off double in the fourth. In the sixth, he allowed a lead off single. But each time he was able to reach back and find what it took to get out of trouble.
It’s been a disappointing season so far with the Cardinals struggling to stay over the .500 mark. But the re-emergence of Waino coupled with the imminent return of shortstop Jhonny Peralta and catcher Brayan Pena should give St. Louis fans plenty to be optimistic about.
While there has been much hand wringing about the idea that the Chicago Cubs were going to run away with the division, the Wee Bears have gone 3-3 in their last six and very nearly fell to 2-4 Wednesday night before pulling out a win in their game against the weak Milwaukee Brewers.
An injection of offense, the addition of a steadier starting shortstop and the resurgence of the pitching staff gives the Cardinals the ingredients they need to brew up a recipe for a winning streak that will cut into the Chicago lead.