Three walks issued, one forcing in a run and another a leadoff walk that scored. A hit batsman forcing in another run. A two-run homer on an 0-2 pitch. Who was that wearing Adam Wainwright’s jersey Monday night?
The 39-old Cardinals righthander, pitching in his 399th big league game, probably never has done all of those things in the same game, let alone in the first three innings of a game. But, after missing the Cardinals’ weekend trip to Pittsburgh when he landed on the COVID-19 list because of contract tracing with somebody in his family who had the virus, Wainwright was far from the same pitcher who a week before had pitched a complete-game loss to Philadelphia.
He did pass the 1,000 strikeout plateau for his career at Busch Stadium III (he had none at Busch II in two games). But, more importantly, his teammates helped take him off the hook.
Nolan Arenado’s three-run homer with two out in the third, after it was ruled he tipped a 1-2 pitch to stay alive, caught the Cardinals up. And back-to-back doubles by Paul DeJong and Tyler O’Neill later in the inning erased a three-run Mets lead and pushed the Cardinals to a season-high fifth consecutive victory, 6-5, over the New York Mets. The game was delayed for a few, hairy seconds in the ninth when the lights at Busch Stadium went out as Pete Alonso batted with two out and a runner on first base for New York.
But just as the paid crowd of 12,686 emitted a ollective groan, the lights came back on. Still, Alex Reyes had to face more trouble as he walked Alonso before he retired Dominic Smith on a fly out to end the game.
After his abominable first three frames, Wainwright straightened to pitch scoreless ball into the sixth and then the Cardinals’ bullpen took over as Wainwright became the 15th St. Louis starter in succession to last at least five innings when that proved to be a major issue earlier in the season.
Wainwright’s first win of the season after three defeats was preserved, in order, by Genesis Cabrera, Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos and Reyes, who posted his eighth save in eight opportunities and still hasn’t been scored on in 14 1/3 innings covering 14 games. Cardinals relievers didn't allow a hit over the final 3 1/3 frames.
The victory vaulted the Cardinals into a first-place tie with Milwaukee in the National League Central Division.
The Cardinals’ Tommy Edman tripled over the head of New York right fielder Michael Conforto to start the home first and trotted home on Dylan Carlson’s fly to Conforto near the right-field line.
Paul Goldschmidt drew a walk from Southeast Missouri Redhawk product Joey Lucchesi but was doubled up in a sparkling twin killing turned by the Mets’ infield. With Arenado at bat, the Mets had three infielders stationed on the third-base of second. Second baseman Jeff McNeil gloved the hard grounder and flipped the ball in front of shortstop Francisco Lindor, leading him perfectly toward second base. .
Lindor ran to the bag and then fired to first to double up Arenado.
Wainwright fanned Smith for the first out of the second, marking No. 1,000 at Busch III. Alonso doubled to right to lead off the inning and was stopped at third on Kevin Pillar’s single to center.
Harrison Bader displayed that his right arm, ailing in the spring, was fine, but he overthrew first baseman Goldschmidt, the cutoff man at the mound, and Pillar went to second once the ball got to catcher Andrew Knizner.
The Cardinals decided to walk intentionally Jonathan Villar to fill the bases and the bases were still filled after Wainwright hit Tomas Nido with a pitch to force in a run.
Lucchesi became Busch victim 1,001 but Wainwright then did something he rarely does—he walked in a run, missing low on a 3-2 pitch to McNeil as the Mets went ahead. But Wainwright fanned Lindor the second time with his slow curve to limit the damage.
Bader made up for his misplay in a big way in the Cardinals’ second. He walloped a 3-1 Lucchesi cutter an estimated 450 feet deep into the left-center-field bleachers behind the Mets’ bullpen.
The homer was Bader’s second in the past two days. He just had rejoined the club on Friday after missing all but one day of April with his sore right forearm.
But then Wainwright did something else he almost never does. He walked a leadoff man, Conforto, in the third. Alonso doubled for the second time, this one to left center. Smith’s groundout to Goldschmidt scored Conforto with the go-ahead run. Wainwright compounded his early failures by surrendering a 414-foot homer on an 0-2 fastball to Pillar and it was 5-2.
Lucchesi retired the first two men he faced in the Cardinals’ third but they were the final two. Carlson singled to right and Goldschmidt singled to center where Pillar missed on a diving attempt. After Arenado survived the near strikeout, he ripped a Lucchesi sinker for his fifth homer of the season and his second curtain call.
The home run was the Cardinals’ fifth three-run homer in their past five games and eighth of the season. They had only three homers with two men on in a 58-game season in 2020.
DeJong, who entered the game with the highest slugging percentage against the Mets (.785) among players with at least 85 plate appearances, just missed a home run when he doubled to right center and the hot-hitting O’Neill followed suit with a double to left center.
DeJong also dived behind second to take a hit away from Conforto to end the Mets’ fourth, stranding a runner. After the teams combined for 11 runs in the first three innings, there was no scoring in the final six.
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