ST. LOUIS — Adam Wainwright turned back the clock with a complete game on his 39th birthday as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cleveland Indians 7-2 Sunday.
Wainwright threw a four-hitter for his 23rd career complete game and first in four years. The Cardinals snapped a four-game skid in which they scored six total runs.
“It’s just, you know, a lot of hard work from a lot of different people have gone into making me able to pitch this year and pitch well,” an emotional Wainwright said. “You know, when you think you’re done three years ago, and you’re able to complete a game a couple years later, it’s a crazy life, a crazy game.”
A little later, Wainwright was the target of some good-natured ribbing from younger teammates. When the Cardinals arrived at the airport for their trip to Cincinnati, he was given a wheelchair ride to the plane courtesy of fellow pitcher Jack Flaherty, who waited in full PPE with a small, handwritten sign seeking “Mr. Adam Wainwright.”
“He respects his elders so much,” Wainwright tweeted. “Good one young fella.”
Dexter Fowler homered and had three RBIs for St. Louis, which stopped Cleveland’s four-game winning streak. The Indians had won nine in a row on the road.
Wainwright (3-0) settled in after allowing a two-run homer to Tyler Naquin in the second inning. The right-hander struck out nine and walked two, going the distance for the first time since July 16, 2016, against the Marlins.
The performance even prompted the entire Indians team to salute him after the final out.
“That was special,” Wainwright said. “I’ll never forget it. Appreciate it. Thank you very much, Cleveland.”
Just as gratifying, he gave a much-needed breather to a St. Louis bullpen that worked 15 1/3 innings over the previous two games.
Wainwright knew the importance of going deep and told Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux before the game that he had 120 pitches in him. Wainwright finished with 122, the most by any pitcher this season.
“I know our bullpen is taxed, and the guys were tired and they just needed a break,” Wainwright said. “Nobody feels sorry for us but, you know, this game is such a grind, mentally. Physically everybody’s in very good shape, but it’s such a grind mentally to play that many games and not have any off days and then go into extra innings and play really tough opponents that are grinding out at-bats.”
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt called the outing the stuff of legend.
“That veteran leadership — the right kind of veteran leadership matters — and him and Yadi (Molina) clearly demonstrated that today. And a game that, you know, got us back on track,” Shildt said.
Fowler’s two-run double was followed by Dylan Carlson’s two-run single to give the Cardinals a 4-2 lead in the second. St. Louis had mustered just three runs in the past 28 innings before the outburst.
Paul Goldschmidt scored on a balk by Aaron Civale in the third.
Fowler sent the second pitch from reliever Cam Hill into the Cardinals’ bullpen behind the right-field wall leading off the seventh. Molina made it 7-2 with an RBI single in the eighth.
“Waino is 39 but he looked young and proved that he has more baseball in him,” Molina said.
Naquin lined a changeup just over the right-field fence to put the Indians ahead 2-0 in the second. It was originally ruled a double, but a replay review showed the ball cleared the wall instead of bouncing off it.
The drive extended Naquin’s hitting streak to 10 games.
Civale (3-4) gave up a season-high five runs in six innings.
“He commanded the edges incredibly,” acting Indians manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said of Wainwright. “Give him credit, he never leaves balls in the middle of the plate. … It’s hard to put barrel when you’re on the edges. He was very sharp.”
With the start against the Indians, Wainwright has made at least one versus every team except the Cardinals.
Molina played in his 2,000th game, third-most in franchise history. The star catcher’s second-inning single gave him 1,981 career hits, passing Red Schoendienst for sixth place in franchise history.
Cardinals RHP Ryan Helsley (COVID-19) threw a bullpen and will join the team on its upcoming road trip. Shildt expects Helsley to be activated early this week.
Indians: RHP Shane Bieber (6-0, 1.35 ERA) starts Monday night in the opener of a three-game series at Kansas City. Bieber pitched six innings as Cleveland beat the Royals 2-0 in the first game of the season July 24. Brad Keller (3-1, 2.08) goes for Kansas City.
Cardinals: RHP Dakota Hudson (0-2, 3.32 ERA) begins a three-game series in Cincinnati when he faces RHP Anthony DeSclafani (1-1, 5.71) on Monday night. Hudson is 3-0 with a 3.16 ERA in five career starts against the Reds.
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