Wainwright's stats for season show his smarts as player
ST. LOUIS If you need another example of just how well Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright has pitched this season, try this: He allowed just two runs in eight innings Sunday yet his ERA barely budged, falling to 2.44 from 2.45.
Or this: The 3-2 victory over the San Diego Padres marked the eighth time that Wainwright has worked at least eight innings in his 21 starts, a feat no one else in the majors can match.
Or how about this: The two walks he issued in his 103-pitching outing (both on full counts) matched his season-high. Wainwright no longer has more wins than walks but he still is averaging less than a walk per start.
Or even this: Although this would have been a season-best outing for many starters, it actually was below average by some of Wainwright's standards. He allowed 10 Padres to reach base, eight via a hit. The Padres put at least one runner on against him in every inning except the second but didn't score after leadoff hitter Everth Cabrera doubled and came home on Yonder Alonso’s two-out single in the first.
"That leadoff hitter was on a lot," Wainwright admitted somewhat jovially. "I've been wanting to work on my stretch game and I felt like today was a good day to do it. Do you believe that?"
Not really, but when you lead the National League in wins (13-5) and are a front-runner for the Cy Young Award while pitching on the team with the majors' best record, you can joke around if you want. Wainwright's ability to get out of trouble, however, was not funny to San Diego.
"He got tough with guys on base, no doubt about it," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's a veteran pitcher with a lot of know-how. He knows how to get a ground ball. He knows how to get a strikeout. He did that today when he needed it the most."
Yes, he did. Wainwright induced double-play grounders to snuff rallies in the third, sixth and eighth. In what he considered the key at-bat in the game, he struck out Cabrera with a runner on third and two outs in the eighth. It took Wainwright nine pitches before the Padres' lone All-Star watched a cutter catch the outside corner and end the threat.
"With (Chase Headley) on deck, you want to attack Cabrera even with a guy on third base," Wainwright said. "If I put Cabrera on and Chase comes up to the plate, he's capable of a three-run shot so I was thinking get the hitter out. This is the guy I want."
By getting him, Wainwright also was given an opportunity to work another inning.
"I actually thought (manager Mike Matheny) was going to try to talk me (into) coming out after seven," Wainwright said. :I appreciate him letting me get that eighth in there. We've used our bullpen the last days and I wanted to carry us deep into the game."
Wainwright improved his career mark to 5-2 against the Padres even though his ERA against them actually went up, to 1.47. He beat them earlier this season in San Diego when he allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings. "He moves the ball both ways. He cuts it and he sinks it and he's 6-8 or whatever and he's got a great catcher," Headley said. "His pitches maybe aren't the best in the league but all of them are good, plus pitches."
Resulting in one great season so far.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.