Adam Wainwright

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Adam Parrish Wainwright

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Biographical Information[edit]

Adam Wainwright is one of three players to homer in his first at-bat then win the game as a pitcher.

Wainwright was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 1st round of the 2000 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Rob English and made his pro debut that summer. On December 13, 2003, Wainwright was traded by the Braves with Ray King and Jason Marquis to the St. Louis Cardinals for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero.

As a rookie in 2006, Wainwright became the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals late in the season when Jason Isringhausen was injured. With the bases loaded in Game 7 of the NLCS, he sealed the pennant by striking out Carlos Beltran on an unhittable 0-2 curveball. Beltran could only stand frozen in the batter's box. The Cards went on to win the World Series over the Detroit Tigers. Wainwright has in fact one of the better curveballs in major league baseball.

He returned to the starting rotation in 2007, starting a string of four outstanding seasons as a starter. That year, he went 14-12, 3.70, pitching over 200 innings, but was then limited to 20 starts by injuries in 2008. But those were outstanding, as he went 11-3, the best winning percentage in the National League, with a 3.20 ERA. In 2009, he staked a claim among the league's elite, leading the circuit with 19 wins and 233 innings while going 19-8, 2.63. He struck out 212 batters that year and finished 3rd in the voting for the Cy Young Award in one of the closest three-way votes ever. He made one start in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers and pitched very well, giving up only a run on three hits in 8 innings, but the Dodgers came back to score a pair of runs off Ryan Franklin in the bottom of the 9th to win the game, 3-2. In 2010, Wainwright was an All-Star for the first time and finished at 20-11, 2.42 with 213 Ks in 230 1/3 innings. This time, he was second in the Cy Young vote, behind the Philadelphia Phillies' Roy Halladay.

Wainwright went down with an arm injury in the first days of spring training in 2011. He missed the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but somehow the Cardinals managed to rally without their ace pitcher and win the World Series that season. He was back on the mound on schedule at the start of the Cards' spring training in 2012, with the aim of making the team's opening day roster. He gave up 3 runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers in his first start on April 7th, but was roughed up in his next outing, the Cards' home opener against the Chicago Cubs on April 13th, giving up a 1st-inning three-run homer to Ian Stewart and a 3rd-inning grand slam to Bryan LaHair for a 9-5 loss. On May 22nd, he showed some of his old spark for the first time, picking up his first shutout since the injury in blanking the San Diego Padres, 4-0, on only four hits. He ended the year at 14-13, 3.94, pitching 198 2/3 innings, with 184 strikeouts, very reassuring numbers that indicated a return to his pre-surgery level of performance. He pitched well in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals on October 7th, limiting them to a single run over 5 2/3 innings while striking out 10, but he was not involved in the decision as the Cards lost, 3-2. In Game 5 on October 12th, he was hit hard, however, surrendering 6 runs on 7 hits in 2 1/3 innings, but his teammates bailed him out, mounting a remarkable comeback to eventually win the game, 9-7, and move to the NLCS. There, he started Game 4 against the San Francisco Giants on October 18th and came up with a vintage performance, giving up one run over 7 innings to be credited with the Cards' 8-3 win that put his team within one win of a return to the World Series; however, the Cardinals lost the next three games and were eliminated before he could take another turn on the mound.

Heading into the 2013 season, with Chris Carpenter's future cloudy due to chronic injuries, Adam was again considered the team's ace and was rewarded appropriately, signing a five-year contract extension at the end of spring training worth $97.5 million. He displayed tremendous control over the early part of the year, not giving up a single walk while striking out 28 batters over his first 29 innings. His record was a sparkling 3-1, 2.48 after four starts. On April 13th, he struck out a batter in every inning, something no Cardinal had done since Bob Gibson in 1970. Elias Sports Bureau reported that he was the first pitcher since at least 1900 to strike out 25+ and walk none in his first four starts of a season. When he finally issued a walk on April 23rd, he became the first pitcher since at least 1900 to have 35 strikeouts before a walk; Dennis Eckersley and Billy Wagner had held the mark at 30. Kenley Jansen broke his mark in 2017, with 51 strikeouts before issuing his first walk, and Corbin Burnes bettered the mark for starting pitchers in 2021. On May 11th, he retired the first 13 batters he faced in a start against the Colorado Rockies before issuing a one-out walk to Todd Helton in the 5th. As teammate Shelby Miller had retired the last 27 batters of the game the previous night, this allowed the Cardinals to tie a record by retiring 40 consecutive opponents, a feat only accomplished once before, by the Texas Rangers on May 3-4, 1996. Wainwright wasn't done, though, as he kept the no-hitter going until the 7th, when he allowed a single by Nolan Arenado; he ended up with a two-hitter in a 3-0 shutout. On June 13th, he became the first ten-game winner on the major league in 2013 when he defeated the Mets, 2-1, with another top-notch performance, keeping his opponents scoreless in seven innings after retiring the first 11 batters of the game, before turning the ball over to the bullpen. He was named the NL's Pitcher of the Month for June, having gone 4-2, 1.77 during the month, with a 40/6 K/W ratio in 45 2/3 innings, then a few days later was named to the NL All-Star team. Wainwright had two of the worst outings of his career back-to-back on August 28th and September 2nd, both times against the Cincinnati Reds in games with pennant race implications: in the first, he gave up 9 runs in only 2 innings to lose, 10-0, and in the second gave up 6 runs in as many innings in another loss, 7-2. Unfazed, he came back to pitch 7 scoreless innings againt the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 7th, winning, 5-0, and putting the Cards back in first place in the tightly-fought NL Central race. He finished the season at 19-9, 2.94, leading the NL in starts (34), complete games (5), innings pitched (241 2/3), shutouts (2) and hits allowed (223). He won both of his starts over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLDS to move the Cards into the next round, but was a 2-1 loser against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the 2013 NLCS. In the 2013 World Series, he was beaten twice by the Boston Red Sox, 8-1 in Game 1 and 3-1 in Game 5.

Wainwright was again one of the league's best pitchers at the start of 2014, going 5-1 in April and finishing the month with a 25-inning scoreless streak. For all his accomplishments, he had never thrown a one-hitter until May 20th of that year, when he dominated the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-0, to improve to 7-2 on the year. he struck out 9, walked none, and only allowed a two-out double to Paul Goldschmidt in the 4th inning. He recorded his 8th career shutout that day. He had another great season that year, making the All-Star Game for the third time and being honored by the starting assignment in the contest. He was the NL's Pitcher of the Month in September, when he went 5-0, 1.38. He ended up as one of three major league pitchers to win 20 games that year, along with Clayton Kershaw and Johnny Cueto, finishing with a record of 20-9, 2.38. In the postseason, he was hit hard in his only start in the NLDS, giving up 6 runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Dodgers, but did better in the NLCS, even though the Cards were eliminated by the San Francisco Giants; in two starts, he gave up 4 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings for an ERA of 3.09, but he was charged with a loss. He was not in top form during the postseason because of soreness in his elbow.

Spring training began on a bad note for Adam in 2015, as he had to fly back to St. Louis after the first couple of workouts, complaining of abdominal pain. He had undergone surgery to trim a small piece of cartilage from his elbow in the off-season, but this health issue was a new one. There was concern that the combination of the need to build back strength following the surgery and this setback would prevent him from being ready for Opening Day. He was diagnosed with an abdominal strain, which turned out to be very good news as it was not expected to set him back any further. Indeed, he was on the mound facing the Chicago Cubs for the major leagues' opening game on April 5th, pitching as well as ever. He gave up no runs on 5 hits over 6 innings to earn the 3-0 win. On April 25th, however, he injured his ankle while hitting in the 5th inning of a start against the Milwaukee Brewers and had to leave the game. He was immediately placed on the disabled list amid speculation that the injury could be season-ending. Indeed, tests revealed a completely torn left Achilles tendon that had to be surgically reattached, with a recovery time estimated at 9 to 12 months. He confounded everyone by making it back a good four months ahead of schedule, entering a game on September 30th when he pitched one inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates, giving up a run. It was a great day for the Cardinals, as on top of Adam's return, a doubleheader split ensured a third straight division title and a 100-win season. He finished the year at 2-1, 1.61 in 7 games, 4 of them starts, and showed enough in his late-season appearances to be added to the postseason roster. He made three relief appearances in the Division Series against the Cubs, allowing 1 run on 3 hits in 5 1/3 innings, but the Cards were upset in four games.

Wainwright was back taking his regular turn in the starting rotation in 2016, although he was being hit hard, with an ERA over 5.00 in the first two months of the year. On June 10th, he helped to win a game with his bat, as he hit a double as a pinch-hitter in the 12th inning against Juan Nicasio of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The hit drove in two runs, starting a six-run outburst that gave the Cards a 9-3 win. At that point of the season, his batting line looked like that of a regular player: .261 with 4 doubles, 1 triple and 1 homer in 23 at-bats. On September 20th, he set a career high with 4 RBIs in a 10-5 win over the Colorado Rockies, giving him 18 RBIs for the season. On the mound, he went 13-9, 4.62 in 33 starts, pitching 198 2/3 innings as the Cards missed the postseason for a rare time in recent years. He led the NL with 220 hits and 102 earned runs allowed that year, as he was still gaining back his strength. He was better at the start of 2017 as a strong performance against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 1st put him at 6-3, 3.79 after 11 starts. In that game, he pitched six scoreless innings and accounted for all the game's runs with a two-run homer off Brandon McCarthy. He went 12-5 with an ERA of 5.11 in 24 games that year.

In 2018, he made 3 starts before a first stay on the DL. After a start on May 13th, he went back on the DL with persistent pain in his right elbow and was placed on the 60-day DL, a clear sign that the issue was considered serious. He only returned on September 10th, then in his next start, on September 16th, he had a clutch performance facing the Los Angeles Dodgers in a nationally-televized Sunday night games. The Cards had lost the first three games of the series to the Dodgers at home and were in danger of falling out of the postseason picture, but Wainwright threw six scoreless innings to send the Cardinals on their way to a 5-0 win. He finished the year at 2-4, 4.46 in 8 starts. On April 24, 2019, he recorded the 150th win of his career as he allowed 1 run in 6 innings in a 5-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. On June 9th, however, he had to leave a start against the Chicago Cubs with a strained hamstring and went on the injured list, although he was hopeful that his absence would only be a short one. He ended up going 14-10, 4.19 in 31 starts, pitching 171 2/3 innings and racking up 153 strikeouts. He returned to the postseason, making 2 starts in 3 outings and allowing just 3 runs over 16 2/3 innings. In spite of this brilliant work, his only decision was a loss to the Washington Nationals in Game 2 of the NLCS on October 12th.

He made just 10 starts during the abbreviated 2020 season but still led the National League with 2 complete games. he went 5-3, 3.15 with an excellent 54/14 K/W ratio in 65 2/3 innings. He made one start in the postseason, facing the San Diego Padres in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series on October 1st. He allowed 2 runs in 3 1/3 innings in what turned out to be a wild 11-9 win by the Padres in a game decided long after he had left the mound. Returning for a 16th season at age 39 in 2021, he seemed to be impervious to the ravages of time as he had another great season for a Cardinals team that fell off the pace early. He was named the NL Pitcher of the Month for August, his third time winning the award, when he posted an ERA of 1.43 in 44 innings, went 5-1 and struck out 36 while issuing just 6 walks. Immediately after receiving the honor, on September 3rd, he combined with C Yadier Molina for a 300th start as a battery, only the fourth duo in history to reach that total. He ended the season at 17-7, 3.05 in 32 starts, leading the league with 3 complete games and recording 174 strikeouts, his highest total since 2014. He received down-ballot consideration in both the MVP vote and Cy Young Award vote. He was selected to start the Wild Card Game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on October 6th and had a great outing, limiting his opponents to 1 run in 5 1/3 innings before turning the ball over to the bullpen. The Cards eventually lost the game on a walk-off homer in the 9th, but Adam had done his part in almost leading them to an upset win.

In 2022, he and Molina were reunited with old teammate Albert Pujols, ten full seasons after Phat Albert had left the team, when he signed a one-year free agent deal. Both Pujols and Molina had stated this would be their last season, so it was no surprise the qustion was put to Adam as well, but he remained coy while hinting that he would perhaps call it quits as well at the end of the season. He started the year well as the Cards' Opening Day starter against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 7th, tossing 6 scoreless innings in a 9-0 win. At 40, he was the fourth oldest starting pitcher with a scoreless outing on Opening Day, only topped by Rip Sewell, Charlie Hough and Roger Clemens. On May 4th, he defeated the Kansas City Royals, 10-0, allowing just 1 hit in 7 innings. That win the 202nd of his career he had registered with Molina behind the plate, tying the pair for most in major league history with Warren Spahn and Del Crandall. They took over the record with a 15-6 win over the San Francisco Giants on May 15th.

Wainwright has established himself as one of the game's best pitchers not by throwing exceptionally hard, but by mastering four pitches to the point that he can throw any of them on any count, keeping hitters off-balance. He can also alter his delivery and arm angle, making hitters even more clueless in terms of guessing what is coming. His control is also exceptional, meaning that he will almost never beat himself with walks and forces hitters to swing defensively in order to protect the plate.

Off the diamond, he is very involved in community work though his foundation "Brace for Impact 46". The foundation has sponsored projects in impoverished areas of Haiti and also in underprivileged neighborhoods around St. Louis, MO, principally North City, by building and renovating buildings that provide basic services and affordable housing while strengthening communities. Former teammate Kyle McClellan has been in right-hand man in running these projects, concentrating mainly on this work after retiring from baseball in 2014. In 2020, he was named the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award in recognition of his tireless charitable efforts.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 3-time NL All-Star (2010, 2013 & 2014)
  • 2-time NL Gold Glove Winner (2009 & 2013)
  • NL Silver Slugger Award (2017)
  • 2-time NL Wins Leader (2009 & 2013)
  • NL Winning Percentage Leader (2008)
  • 2-time NL Innings Pitched Leader (2009 & 2013)
  • 3-time NL Complete Games Leader (2013, 2020 & 2021)
  • 2-time NL Shutouts Leader (2013 & 2014)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 5 (2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 & 2021)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 2 (2010 & 2014)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 6 (2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 & 2021)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 3 (2009, 2010 & 2013)
  • Won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006

Further Reading[edit]

  • John Denton: "Wainwright hints at final year, but 'I'm still executing': Entering age-40 season: 'I’m still having a really, really good time pitching'",, March 28, 2022. [1]
  • John Denton: "Win 202 ties Waino-Yadi battery atop all-time list",, May 4, 2022. [2]
  • Jenifer Langosch: "Wainwright enters spring feeling strong: Ace missed most of 2015 with left Achilles tear",, February 18, 2016. [3]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Wainwright's mastery the stuff of legends", USA Today, May 29, 2014. [4]
  • Mike Petriello: "At 40, Wainwright pitching like ace once again: Cardinals righty has 1.97 ERA in nine second-half starts",, August 29, 2021. [5]
  • Anne Rogers: "Wainwright wins 2020 Clemente Award",, December 7, 2020. [6]
  • Phil Rogers: "Healthy Waino restores order in Cards' rotation",, March 3, 2016. [7]
  • Joe Trezza: "Waino: 'Whatever's in store for me, I'll be ready': Injured veteran right-hander addresses future for first time",, August 8, 2018. [8]

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