ST. LOUIS — Stuck in a month-long rut at the plate, the slumping St. Louis Cardinals turned to an unlikely candidate to get things going offensively: Adam Wainwright.
Usually known for the abilities of his powerful right arm, the pitcher provided an RBI-double, scored the tying run and walked with the bases loaded — all off Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw — to help lead the Cardinals to a much-needed 8-2 win at Busch Stadium.
Wainwright had just three hits in 38 at-bats entering Tuesday and had no walks, RBIs, runs scored or extra-base hits. He changed all of that in a span of two plate appearances.
“I was wasting everyone’s time when I went up to the plate before tonight,” Wainwright said. “I know I’m a better hitter than I’ve shown this year. By no means am I a great hitter but I can hit the ball, especially for a pitcher. I’ve been embarrassing myself all year long so it’s about time I did something to help this team at the plate.”
Wainwright wasn’t too shabby on the mound either. The right-hander allowed just two runs on seven hits and had seven strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings to pick up his eighth win of the season. He registered only two three-ball counts and threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of the final 17 hitters he faced.
With the Cardinals quickly fading in the National League Central race, they turned to Wainwright to try and keep them from falling any further behind the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates. But they expected him to do it with his arm, not his bat.
The career .206 hitter executed a perfect sacrifice bunt in the third inning to move runners up to second and third. But when the Cardinals couldn’t score and looked hopeless against Kershaw the first four innings, Wainwright took things into his own hands in the fifth.
Following a two-out hit from Daniel Descalso, Wainwright launched a double into the gap in left center to score him from first and make it 2-1. Rafael Furcal followed with an RBI single to center to score Wainwright from second and tie the game at 2.
“A lot of times what you do at the plate makes a difference in a win or loss,” Wainwright said. “There’s been several times this year where I didn’t come through with bases loaded and one out or whatever it is and didn’t get the run home and we ended up losing by one.
“I was fired up. The little things sometimes make a huge difference in the game.”
With Kershaw succumbing to the St. Louis heat an inning later in the sixth, the left-hander walked Descalso intentionally to load the bases with two outs for Wainwright. And the move proved to be costly.
Wainwright drew a five-pitch walk to score the second run of the inning and put the Cardinals up 4-2. The Cardinals followed with a pair of two-run hits from Furcal and Allen Craig to open the floodgates and put the game out of reach.
“Any time you get two RBI from your pitcher and a couple good at-bats, that’s a bonus,” Descalso said. “He was making his pitches and having good at-bats, I mean you can’t ask for anything more.
“Honestly you’re not really expecting much out of the pitcher’s spot and when they do, it’s a great bonus to have and it turns the lineup over to the top of the order. He had a big walk.”
Asked of Wainwright’s plate appearances, veteran Lance Berkman quipped, “They were surprising considering he’s been horrible at the plate so far this year, but it looks like he’s got his game back together.”
The Cardinals had an NL-worst three combined RBI from their pitchers entering the game. Wainwright had two himself by the sixth inning. He was the first Cardinals pitcher to walk with the bases loaded since Mark Mulder in 2006.
According to FOX Sports Midwest producer Tim Trokey, it was Wainwright’s fourth career multi-RBI game and first since July 4, 2010. It was the first time he had an RBI in two different plate appearances in the same game.
Wainwright’s batting average went from .079 to .103 with the hit.
“I would say last game was the first time I felt a little swagger at the plate and tonight I tried to carry that over,” Wainwright said. “I really have been working hard on it. We’ve had some opportunities and hadn’t got it done, especially me. I was just brutal all year, so I really wanted to come through.”
The Cardinals have now won four of their last five games as they look to climb back into the division race. And Tuesday, it came from an unlikely source.