2006 NLCS Game 7
Hard to believe that what many, myself including, view as the biggest moment of Adam Wainwright's career came all the way back in his statistical rookie year of 2006. NLCS Game 7 against the Mets. Rewind a month prior and St. Louis's All-star closer Jason Isringhausen, had just gone down with season-ending hip surgery. So, on September 17th, with only one career save to his name, 24-year-old Adam Wainwright took over for the Cardinal's all-time saves leader in the midst of a pennant race.
Wainwright notched two more saves in late September to bump his career save total to 3 and helped clinch a wild card birth for a very wild 83-win Cardinals team. With stars like Edmonds, Pujols, Rolen, Carpenter, and a young Molina, Wainwright was talented sure, but more of an afterthought. A future star waiting to bud. That time to bloom was now.
St. Louis entered the post-season with the third-worst record for any MLB playoff team at the time. Yet they continued to have their way with the San Diego Padres in the postseason and eliminated them in the NLDS in 4 games, setting up a David vs. Goliath feel against the heavily favored 97-win New York Mets.
The series was extremely hard fought by both sides and as Game 5 came to an end, the Cardinals actually led 3-2 in the series, but the Mets had home-field advantage and the series was heading back to New York for Games 6 & 7. In Game 6 the Mets came out firing and led off the game with a lead-off HR by Jose Ryes against the Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter and carried that momentum throughout the game to eventually take Game 6 by a score of 4-2. Forcing a win-or-go-home Game 7 in Flushings New York.
Game 7 lived up to the billing with St. Louis starter Jeff Suppan opposite Mets starter Oliver Perez matching each other in a 1-1 ball game all the way to the ninth inning. THIS WAS A NAIL BITTER. Then in the top of the ninth, with 6 HRs on the season, 23-year-old Yadier Molina swatted a deep fly ball to LF that cleared the wall, and Endy Chavez's glove, to give the Cardinals an unprecedented 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. Enter, Adam Wainwright.
Waino, bracing the cold October air looked towards the plate to face 7-8-9 in the Mets order and send the Cardinals to the World Series. Easy, right? Wrong. Wainwright also had to face the 56,357 screaming Mets fans as well. He allowed back-to-back singles to both Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez to lead off the inning and bring the immediate winning run to the plate in pinch-hitter Cliff Floyd. Sitting 2-2 in the count, Wainwright may have foreshadowed impending doom for the Mets as he dropped a beautiful curveball to catch Floyd looking on strike 3. One out. That then brought perennial all-star Jose Reyes to the plate representing the winning run. Reyes, after taking a curveball for a strike and fouling another off inside, whacked a 1-2 hanger into shallow CF, but that's just where Edmonds loved to play. Shallow. Two outs. Wainwright then missed on a 3-1 fastball outside to Paul Lo Duca and loaded the bases to bring up Cardinal killer, Carlos Beltran.
Wainwright found the weight of the world on his shoulders as he was the man tasked with getting the last out and sending his team to the World Series, or home. He found the sign from Yadi and began the sequence, a change-up, strike-one. A curve ball inside that Beltran got a piece of for strike-two. Now one strike away from securing the save and a mob on the mound, Molina set his signs, tapped the ground, and watched, along with Beltran, and millions around the country, as the the most beautiful curveball fell into his glove for strike three.
By far the most legendary moment of his distinguished career. One that plays over and over again in Cardinals post-season highlights, and I'm sure many fans heads and hearts as well.
There are many other moments that come to mind when I think of the career of Adam Wainwright. We hope you enjoyed this list. What would yours be?