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Adam Wainwright

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Adam Parrish Wainwright

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[edit] Biographical Information

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. 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.

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.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 3-time NL All-Star (2010, 2013 & 2014)
  • 2-time NL Gold Glove Winner (2009 & 2013)
  • 2-time NL Wins Leader (2009 & 2013)
  • NL Winning Percentage Leader (2008)
  • 2-time NL Innings Pitched Leader (2009 & 2013)
  • NL Complete Games Leader (2013)
  • NL Shutouts Leader (2013)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 3 (2009, 2010 & 2013)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (2010)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 4 (2007, 2009, 2010 & 2013)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 3 (2009, 2010 & 2013)
  • Won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006

[edit] Further Reading

  • Bob Nightengale: "Wainwright's mastery the stuff of legends", USA Today, May 29, 2014. [1]

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