I've said it before over the past four or five seasons, but I think it bears repeating now and again. Thank god for Adam Wainwright.
It's been a great ride, watching Wainwright progress from hyped prospect (acquired in return for J.D. Drew way back in the 2003-04 offseason), to World Series curveball hero, to ace starter and Cy Young contender. Last season, seeing the Cardinals try to find solutions for the rotation without Wainwright was flat-out painful at times. Chris Carpenter finally had to sell the next year of his arm's life to the devil late in the season in order to make it through the playoffs. More times than I could count throughout the year, both regular and postseason, I found myself thinking, "Man, if this team just had Wainwright healthy."
He spun another gem yesterday, working seven innings of one-run ball en route to his tenth victory of the year, moving him to an even .500 for the season. The numbers still aren't Wainwrightian quite yet; his 3.90 ERA is the highest of his career -- not counting his two inning late-season audition back in 2005 -- but the signs are all pointing in the right direction, at least.
In his last five starts, Wainwright has a 1.73 ERA, has held the opposition to just a .510 OPS against, and a 35/5 K/BB ratio in 36.1 innings. Now those are
Wainwrightian numbers, and just when the Cardinals need them the most.
Actually, it's a little unfair of me when I talk about the numbers not looking a certain way. Wainwright's peripherals have been at least close to elite pretty much all season; his K/BB ratio and things like that have been among the best of his career. But the runs allowed have reflected a pitcher struggling to find a consistent groove and stay there. A good start would be followed by a five inning, five run clunker. A little more hittable than we're used to. One or two extra pitches left up and in the middle of the plate, or even just one flat cutter that would find its way over the wall. Nothing unusual for a pitcher returning from Tommy John surgery, of course, but not exactly the kind of consistent excellence we've come to expect from this particular pitcher.
Now, though, it all seems to be coming together for Adam. I wish the same could be said for the Cardinals themselves.