Adam Wainwright’s gem goes to waste as Cardinals sink 20 games under .500


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ST. LOUIS — The Cardinals arrived back in St. Louis late Sunday night eager to shed their skins of a dismal road trip, one where they went 1-5 and scored 11 total runs in six games, including a combined three runs in their three-game series sweep by the Philadelphia Phillies.

With the slumping San Diego Padres — fresh off their own sweep by the Milwaukee Brewers — in town, Monday served as the ideal cleansing palette. While it’s true the Cardinals’ fate this season has already been sealed, individual performances carry a significant amount of merit as the club turns its attention to 2024. And though he won’t be a part of the picture next year, perhaps nobody’s individual performance has been under as much scrutiny as Monday’s starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright.

With Wainwright slated to duel San Diego’s Blake Snell — who entered play leading the MLB with a 2.73 ERA — an already struggling St. Louis offense faced a tall order. Turns out, the most inspiring Cardinals performance at the plate Monday night came by a former one.

Matt Carpenter’s RBI single off Wainwright in the sixth inning broke open the scoring and ultimately proved pivotal as the Padres cruised to a 4-1 victory at Busch Stadium. The loss spoiled a quality start by Wainwright, who scattered one run on eight hits over six innings and dropped the Cardinals to 20 games under .500 for the first time since September 1995. The Cardinals offense tallied just four hits, with Paul Goldschmidt’s eighth-inning solo homer accounting for the only run.

“Yeah, you definitely want to come through there,” manager Oli Marmol said after the loss. “(Wainwright) pitched extremely well and unfortunately we weren’t able to come through.”

It wasn’t for lack of opportunity. Though Snell ultimately carded seven shutout frames, he walked five batters and none scored. The Cardinals’ prime scoring opportunity came in the bottom of the fourth when Goldschmidt and Willson Contreras singled and Nolan Gorman walked, loading the bases with one out. But the bottom of the order couldn’t capitalize. Andrew Knizner struck out for the second out of the frame (despite going ahead 3-0 on the count) and Jordan Walker whiffed on three straight breaking balls to end the threat.

“(Snell) has pretty good swing-and-miss in the zone, out of the zone,” Marmol said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of not chasing him around at times, but he can still beat you in the zone. Like the Knizner at-bat, Knizner makes contact well, but he still got beat there. … With Jordan, (Snell) knows a younger hitter, he can expand the zone a little bit with him and maybe get some chase, and once he’s able to do that early, you stick with it.”

That the offense — which had been one of the National League’s top performers up until August — continued to sputter on what was arguably Wainwright’s best start of the year surely comes as further frustration to an already exasperated fan base. Despite his allowing 11 total base runners and striking out only one hitter, Wainwright’s curveball was deceptive and his sequencing strategic, and he was able to effectively keep the Padres’ big trio of Juan Soto, Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts off balance.

“I don’t have the best stuff that I’ve ever had right now, but I sure can compete with it,” Wainwright said. “I can go out and make pitches, keep them off balance, go in and out and change speeds. … Strikeout stuff always helps for sure, but I think if you can keep (hitter) off balance, that’s the key.”

Run support is also key, and that’s something the offense has not been able to produce over the last week of play. There are varying reasons for that. Arenado continues to deal with a sore lower back, Gorman was just activated off the injured list for the same reason and Contreras has been the team’s designated hitter more often than not in order to keep his legs fresh. But the most prominent reason is the absence of Brendan Donovan and Lars Nootbaar, two of the club’s most prominent left-handed bats (though Nootbaar could be activated off the IL by Friday).

“We’re missing Donovan and Nootbaar for a lot of reasons,” Marmol explained before the game. “From a strategy standpoint and how the opposition can use their bullpen against us, it makes a big difference, because the guys that are coming off the bench to take at-bats are (now) in the lineup, and you don’t have the mix.

“You can sit there and say we still have Goldschmidt and Arenado, how can you not hit? There’s more than an offense or a good lineup than having your two boppers in there. It’s what’s around them, getting guys on base, fatigue, the opposition. There’s a lot more that goes into it.”

Whatever the reason, the lack of offense Monday night stings even worse knowing that it cost Wainwright, who remains two wins shy of notching 200 in his career, another coveted opportunity to pick up his first victory since June 17.

“I can’t control it,” Wainwright said. “It’s control what I can control, go out there and try to make quality pitches. If I don’t give up a run in the sixth, I don’t lose the game, maybe we don’t lose the game. So that’s kind of a bummer. But I do know that I held a pretty good team to one run tonight, so I can’t be too disappointed.”

Disappointment has been palpable all season long in St. Louis. While the team is probably better off avoiding tallying up the win column, Wainwright’s personal win column is worth watching. Monday night, despite the veteran pitcher’s best efforts, that column again remained at 198.

(Photo of Adam Wainwright delivering a pitch against the Padres: Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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