While this year has been a struggle for Adam Wainwright, Sunday he put together his best outing of the year for the St. Louis Cardinals and showed flashes of his former self.
If Arrieta were the dominant pitcher in this match-up, it is hard to believe many would have been surprised if the St. Louis Cardinals dropped the contest considering the struggles that Wainwright has endured thus far this year. Fortunately, for Cardinals fans, Wainwright showed a flash of his former self and the Cardinals took the series over the Cubs and evened the season against Chicago at 3-3.
After throwing a clean seven innings against the Cubs, Wainwright lowered his season ERA to 5.31. Not exactly the numbers you hope to see from him at this point in the season. A big question for the St. Louis Cardinals going forward this season is how effective can Wainwright really be? After by far his best outing of the year, Cardinal fans may breathe a bit more soundly next time Wainwright takes the hill.
Last week I wrote about potential mid-season moves the Cardinals could make to take the next step. In the article I said it may be time to tamper expectations of Wainwright truly becoming an effective pitcher again. After Sunday you have to wonder, was it a flash in the pan aided by an ailing Cubs lineup, or is it a step in the right direction?
After seven solid innings against a division rival, Wainwright’s confidence had to take a huge step in the right direction. Wainwright’s previous success has to have made this last year a real struggle. A career sub-3.50 ERA to where he is now is burden that must have been weighing on him. Sunday’s win will hopefully be a stepping stone for Wainwright in the 2017 season.
What does this mean for the rest of the year?
Building off of his success Sunday will be key. While he was successful he could have been more effective. Walks have been and are still an issue. Wainwright is going too deep in counts against hitters and that will always hurt him unless he finds better command.
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The Adam Wainwright the St. Louis Cardinals need is the one we saw Sunday, sans the walks. Getting through six innings is key. Limiting the stress on the bullpen will go a long way in this team having success going forward. As we have seen in the past, there have been real concerns with bullpen overuse. Quality starts from Wainwright could go a long way in preserving the bullpen for the long run.
The St. Louis Cardinals do not need Wainwright to be an ace anymore; what they need is for him to be essentially a solid three- or four-starter going forward. Expecting more than that would be putting too much pressure on him and the team as a whole. With the success of Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Mike Leake thus far this season it is far less painful to lower expectations for Wainwright.
If Wainwright can continue to build upon the success of Sunday, the St. Louis Cardinals will be in a far better position to potentially make a playoff run. As we have seen, the offense has the ability to disappear. Good pitching will be key to limiting the damage that can cause. The question is, will Adam Wainwright be part of the solution, or the problem?