Cardinals: Adam Wainwright's Top Career Highlights

It's time that Adam Wainwright gets the love he deserves.
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It’s no secret that the Cardinals’ 2023 campaign has been disappointing. Frankly, it’s been a complete mess. Frustration has gripped every corner of the fanbase. Accusations, demands, and calls for trades or a full-blown fire sale run rampant on social media. In the midst of the nauseating discord, little attention has been given to a player who’s given nearly two decades of amazing baseball to the franchise: Adam Wainwright.

Unfortunately, that tiny morsel of attention afforded to the 41-year-old right-hander has been almost exclusively negative. While it’s true, and in fact unquestionable that Wainwright is in the midst of the heaviest struggle of his career, even if he had led his team to a win in all of his starts thus far, the team would still be well under .500. The Cardinals were already 10-23 by the time he had pitched his first game in May.

The brunt of the blame for this year’s fiasco cannot be placed solely upon the shoulders of Wainwright, though you might get another impression subjecting yourself to the seemingly endless torrent of fury spewed by many online.

While Wainwright is by no means above criticism, the accolades of his illustrious career warrant a great deal of love—love that hasn’t been forthcoming. In celebration of not only one of the best players in St. Louis but MLB history, here are three defining moments of Wainwright's incredible career.

2,000 strikeouts

While rare to see a pitcher play into his late thirties, even rarer is to see them thrive while doing so. One of the most dominant pitchers in the league an entire 15-years-ago, Wainwright went on to earn Cy Young votes, pitch 200 innings, and lead the league in complete games at a whopping 39 years old in 2021. From the earliest days of his career, Wainwright has relied on his top-notch curveball for his knockout pitch, appropriately earning him the nickname of “Uncle Charlie.”

This near-unprecedented longevity and success led him that year to reach the prestigious milestone of 2,000 strikeouts, becoming the 85th major leaguer and only the second Cardinal to ever achieve such a feat. Like most Cardinals’ pitching records, the most strikeouts in franchise history belong to Bob Gibson.

Wainwright’s unfortunate victim for strikeout 2,000 was Luis Urias, who after a grueling seven-pitch battle finally succumbed to that filthy signature curveball low and away for strike three.

325 starts as a battery

Any talk about Wainwright’s longevity and success is naturally incomplete without talk of his longtime battery mate, Yadier Molina. With the two having been teammates for 17 seasons, their tenure with the Cardinals eclipsed the lives of many of the fans who came to watch them in the stands.

So successful was their partnership, and so fortunate that both of their careers kicked off near simultaneously, that they surpassed what had felt like a previously untouchable record: 324 starts as a battery, which was held by Tigers Mikey Lolich and Bill Freehan.

Their long and arduous journey came to a fitting conclusion on Sept. 14, 2022, against the Milwaukee Brewers. In a remarkably classy move, leadoff hitter Christian Yelich took strike one on the outside corner to ensure the duo had their moment.  

To illustrate the grand scale of 325 starts, the next active streak at the time was a mere 105 starts between Cubs Kyle Hendricks and Willson Contreras—as good as dead considering that Willson Contreras is, of course, now a St. Louis Cardinal.

You never know though, maybe Contreras and Wainwright can figure out a way to break the record.

Winning the 2006 World Series

Out of all of Wainwright’s incredible accomplishments, the crown jewel is undoubtedly his contribution to the Cardinals’ World Series run of 2006.

Given the critical role of closing out games in the postseason, Wainwright was lights-out in the divisional series against the Padres and continued to dominate against the Mets in the championship series. The powerhouse Mets had forced a Game 7, but Yadier Molina had given the Cardinals the ultimate windfall: a go-ahead two-run home run in the ninth to make the score 3-1.

Drama would run high, however. On that rainy night at Shea Stadium, the first two hitters managed to squeeze out a pair of singles, leaving the Cardinals in a precarious situation. Wainwright managed to secure two outs but at the cost of loading the bases. He now had to face Carlos Beltran, who had notched 41 home runs and 116 RBIs in his 2006 campaign.

A fastball down the middle marked strike one. Beltran fouled off a curveball for strike two. Both teams’ seasons were on the edge of a precipice, but it was the Cardinals who would come out on top. Throwing his signature curveball, Wainwright caught Beltran looking for strike three, winning the Cardinals their 17th National League pennant and sending them to the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. Mets fans were left in the same state as Beltran—all they could do was stare.  

This incredibly clutch performance meant that just over a week later, the Cardinals were in position to win their first World Series championship since 1982. The Cardinals' offense had done its job, Jeff Weaver had pitched an eight-inning gem, and Wainwright was given the chance to close out a 4-2 ballgame in the ninth.

Sean Casey, who had procured Detroit’s two runs in the fourth, managed to leg out a critical, one-out double, and Placido Polanco managed to save the Tigers’ season with a two-out walk. The day was not Detroit’s, however, and a strikeout of Brandon Inge secured the game, and the series, and propelled Wainwright into the annals of baseball history.

Spanning 9.2 innings across nine outings, Wainwright didn’t concede a single run during the entire 2006 postseason.


However, this season ends for Adam Wainwright, to say he’s not a Cardinals and MLB legend is downright nonsense. This season doesn’t change a single thing. Through the 18 seasons he’s graced St. Louis, he’s given everything to his teammates, his club, and his city, and the Cardinals have been privileged to have him. Thank you for everything, Waino.

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