If there was a moment when the Cardinals revealed themselves and took a trust fall into Adam Wainwright’s waiting arms, it came before the fourth inning Monday as manager Mike Shildt decided to keep the veteran starter in the game.
He earned that chance based on faith.
What Wainwright did with it earned him a start Sunday, vs. the Dodgers.
“We’re all clear on what the timing of the season looks like,” Shildt said. Asked if the decision was made with head and heart, Shildt explained: “It’s a blend of all of it. It’s not just a complete, oh, in the past this is what he’s done and think it’s going to be automatic. That’s not how this works. He’s physically able to go and execute pitches and he has the other intangibles and experiences to go with it. He’s more than earned it from those vantage points.”
Shildt confirmed Wainwright’s start as part of revealing the team’s rotation for the four-game series against the Dodgers. LA trails the Cardinals by three games for the NL’s second wild-card berth. LA reorganized its rotation to get lefty Clayton Kershaw into Thursday’s game, and the Cardinals inserted Daniel Poncedeleon for Wednesday’s start .
Austin Gomber will start opposite Kershaw, followed by Jack Flaherty on Friday, John Gant on Saturday, and Wainwright for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball telecast.
In his first start since mid-May, Wainwright finished five innings and the Cardinals rallied from a four-run deficit to win, though after Wainwright had left the game to the bullpen. He encountered turbulence in the third — allowing four runs on five hits . The Cardinals had Tyson Ross warm and Wainwright’s spot in the order up in the bottom of the inning, but Shildt sided with what he called “a really nice reference point.”
In short, Wainwright’s career.
The righthander retired the final eight batters he faced, and he got seven outs on his final 22 pitches. Those results, Shildt explained, resonated with what the Cardinals saw from the deeper data. He said Wainwright’s spin rate compared favorably to what an average pitcher needs to get outs, and there was an uptick in Wainwright’s velocity. His average cutter was up from 81.59 mph in May to 85.07 mph on Monday; his sinker up from 86.74 mph to 90.77 mph. Those metrics swirled with what Shildt repeatedly mentioned as a reason for leaning on Wainwright: seasoning. His stands out with a rookie-infused group of starters, the rest of whom are all new to a pennant race.
“If it wasn’t coming out as good as it came out and consistent as it came out – we couldn’t say it’s going to be guile alone,” Shildt said. “You can’t discount the experience factor, knowing how to pitch and slow the game down (Monday). Let’s continue to find out what this looks like. Let’s evaluate it. You find out by letting him pitch.”
The Cardinals began with Tuesday night’s Miles Mikolas start and fanned out from there when it came to deciding who started when and how much at catcher, using familiarity as their guide, Shildt said. While waiting for Yadier Molina (hamstring) to return from injury, possibly as soon as this weekend, the Cardinals have carved catching duties between Francisco Pena and Carson Kelly.
Shildt said that Pena’s feel for Mikolas got him that start and they engineered the split-starts from there. Kelly’s work with Daniel Poncedeleon at Class AAA Memphis made sense for him to start Wednesday’s day game. Kelly also handled Wainwright’s start because he had just done so at Triple-A a week earlier.
“Trust them both,” Shildt said. “History, definitely a driving force.”
WACHA'S FOCUS TURNS TO 2019
The muscle strain buried under his ribs that still makes it painful to sneeze would not relent long enough for Michael Wacha to avoid losing more than half of his season. The Cardinals and Wacha made the call Monday to end his push to return this season and shifted to having the righthander focus on 2019, his last season before free agency.
The soreness near his ribcage never completely vanished, Wacha described Tuesday, and he went to Class AAA Memphis for a start on the hope that it would loosen long enough to pitch.
“I just thought it was better not to make that start and just let it rest up,” Wacha said. “Everyone I’ve talked to with oblique injuries, they say it will take some time to get over it. You’ll start to feel a little weird there, but eventually it will go away. I’m just holding onto those words.”
Wacha, 27, was off to an 8-2 start with a 3.20 ERA and a possible All-Star nod when he felt a stitch stab through his left side during a start June 20 in Philadelphia. The team suggested he had sustained a “mild” oblique strain, though said internally that he could miss two months or more returning from the injury. When it resurfaced after two rehab appearances, Wacha had to start again. He called that a “setback” and not a new injury. The righthander finishes the season with 15 starts and fewer than 85 innings as he enters his final season of arbitration.
The Cardinals must decide about his readiness for 2019 before presenting him a contract early this offseason, the salary of which can be negotiated or determined by arbitration hearing.
He’s been prescribed more rest to allow the oblique muscle time to calm and the irritation subside. From there, his rehab will include strengthen his core muscles and new workouts that will have to work in concert with the work he already does to alleviate strain on his right scapula.
“All forward on this thing,” he said. “Trying to get it healthy.”
MAYERS, TV, ETC.
San Francisco’s visit to Busch Stadium has been moved to a 12:05 p.m. St. Louis time start in order to accommodate a national telecast on Fox. The Cardinals have had a series of games picked up for a national broadcast in the coming weeks, including Saturday’s game against LA (Fox), Sunday’s vs. LA (ESPN), and Tuesday’s at Atlanta, which was selected by ESPN on Tuesday for a national broadcast. It will remain a 6:35 p.m. St. Louis time start. … With a double Monday, Matt Carpenter completed his third season with at least 40 doubles. In Cardinals’ history only Stan Musial (nine), Joe Medwick (seven), Albert Pujols (six), and Rogers Hornsby (five) have had more.