With Adam Wainwright on the Mound, No ‘Pen Needed


Adam Wainwright had one of the best pitching performances of the season last night in a 5-0 St. Louis Cardinals victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Wainwright threw a complete game shutout, allowing only 1 hit and facing only 1 over the minimum to get his 7th win of the season.  He tallied 9 strikeouts to give him 65 for the season, while not allowing a walk.  He also lowered his ERA to 1.85.  This was Wainwright’s second complete game of the season, giving him 18 in his career.  This was also his 8th career shutout.  Astonishingly, this was his first ever 1-hit complete game.  It is hard to believe that he has not had more 1-hitters, or even no-hitters in his very good career.

With that pitching performance last night, Wainwright now has 5 starts this season where he went 7 or more innings allowing no runs while giving up 4 or fewer hits.  Clearly these are Cy Young Award worthy numbers he is putting up.  Had he not allowed that 4th inning double by Paul Goldschmidt, he would have made history and boosted his Cy Young resume.  I wonder if things would have been different had home-plate umpire and crew chief Brian O’Nora not gotten ill after the third inning.  Statistically the 4th inning was Wainwright’s worst of the night.  He threw 115 pitches on the night, but 26 of them came in the 4th, the same inning he gave up the double to Goldschmidt.  While it seemed like the umpire delay had little effect on Wainwright, I wonder if it got him a little bit out of rhythm.  He was coasting along up until that point.  I guess that will go down as a “what-if” in his career.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of Wainwright’s complete game shutout was that the much overused bullpen was not needed.  Prior to the game Manager Mike Matheny had said that Closer Trevor Rosenthal was not available last night.  Had it come down to it, someone else would have had to close the game out.  Resting Rosenthal was definitely a good idea seeing as how his workload has been very heavy this past week.  In all reality, however, Rosenthal really should have been unavailable Sunday, after pitching the previous 3 nights.  We all know he then blew the lead in the finale against the Atlanta Braves.  Not only was Rosenthal used 4 straight nights, he was inefficient in those 4 nights.  Other than Saturday night when he only had to throw 9 pitches (8 for strikes), Rosenthal threw 26 Thursday, 17 Friday, and 23 Sunday during the blown save.  That should have been the Cardinals first series sweep of the season.  It seems as if Matheny is still relying heavily on Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Pat Neshek, and Kevin Siegrist.  Fortunately, everyone got another day off last night after the off day Monday due to Wainwright’s dominance.

It seems like this team is finally starting to fire on all cylinders.  The offense is coming to life as they have scored 4 runs or more in the last 11 games.  The starting pitching has had 5 consecutive games where they went at least 7 innings.  That has cut down on some of the reliance of the bullpen.  And the Cardinals are only 2.5 games back of the much cooled Milwaukee Brewers.

One additional note on Wainwright’s performance that is absolutely stunning to me, is that it was his 18th complete game and 8th shutout.  Now, sure, those numbers are pretty impressive in today’s standards.  However, this is what is mind-blowing to me, Bob Gibson had 251 wins in his career.  But, he had 255 career complete games!  That is simply unheard of today. Gibson also averaged 262 innings a season, while Wainwright is currently averaging 208 innings. The last time anyone in MLB even pitched 260 innings was in 2003 when Roy Halladay pitched 266 innings. Once again, Gibson averaged 262 innings. The reliance on the starting pitcher has become nearly non-existent with the overuse of bullpens, and over analysis of pitch counts.  While I think keeping an eye on innings pitched and pitch counts is a good idea for the health of a pitcher’s arm, I think at times the bullpen is called upon too early in a situation where they are not needed.

Perhaps the only negatives about last night’s game, was that Wainwright did not get a hit.  He went 0-for-3 on the night, dropping his average from .381 to .333.  Also, Jason Motte was not needed, and thus did not make his much anticipated 2014 debut.