Mustached Wainwright remains red-hot
Tosses de facto complete game at Nats for fifth July win
WASHINGTON -- Nothing can stop a mustached Adam Wainwright. Not a heavy rainstorm complete with unbridled thunder and lightning, or the ensuing one-hour, 16-minute rain delay in the fourth inning, and certainly not the Nationals lineup.
Well, maybe a second delay of over an hour could stop him, but that was only because it ended the game. Wainwright's razor-sharp performance -- six innings of one-run ball in a rain-shortened, six-inning game -- shaved his ERA to 1.57 in five 'stached starts in July, and helped the Cardinals to a 4-1 win.
"That's how you get a [complete game] right there," Wainwright said, referring to his first complete game this season.
Before going to Philadelphia for a clash between division leaders, the Cardinals stopped at Nationals Park to make up a May 3 game which was postponed because of rain. They received more rain, and more importantly, a victory that included two hours and 46 minutes of delays.
Still, the Cardinals weren't ready to complain.
"Pain in the butt that we had a rain delay, for sure, but it was as perfect as you can go," said Rick Ankiel, who hit a home run in the second inning. "We didn't have to use the bullpen, so it's as good as you could have gone."
With Albert Pujols out of the lineup getting some rest, the Cardinals offense did not miss a beat, allowing Wainwright to cruise through his outing with run support aplenty.
Against Nationals starter Collin Balester, making his 2009 debut, the Cards got the lead man aboard in each of the first four innings. They efficiently capitalized, scoring four runs in that time.
Skip Schumaker opened the game with a double down the third-base line, and on a shallow fly hit by Colby Rasmus to left field, he feigned tagging up to go to third, causing Adam Dunn to drop the ball while transferring it to his throwing hand. Schumaker made it safely to third and came home for the game's first run on a Mark DeRosa infield tapout.
To lead off the second, Ankiel connected with a Balester fastball for his first home run since June 19.
"Feels good," Ankiel said. "He was behind in the count, so I was looking for a fastball. He gave it to me, and I put a good swing on it."
Ryan Ludwick walked to begin the fourth inning, just before the Washington sky opened and drenched Nationals Park. The game was delayed before the Cardinals could resume their offensive outpour.
The Nationals changed pitchers after the stoppage but suffered the same results. Yadier Molina singled against reliever Tyler Clippard, and Joe Thurston doubled to deep right to push across a third run. Later, with the bases loaded, Schumaker walked on four pitches to put the Cards in front, 4-0.
Wainwright, meanwhile, stayed loose during the delay and continued to toe the rubber after it, keeping the Nationals far enough away from his four-run lead.
"It was clutch," Ankiel said. "He made a lot of great pitches to get zeroes and made the lead hold up."
Rain has delayed play at Nationals Park this year for a combined 30 hours and 31 minutes, spanning 16 affected contests.
Crew chief Dana Demuth said that the whole infield was an inch under water when the grounds crew tried to pour dust on it during the second delay. When that dust turned into mud, Demuth decided the field was unplayable and called the game at 11:40 p.m. ET.
Wainwright was going to be taken out of the game in the bottom of the seventh, but the game never got that far. Ludwick led off the top of that frame with a walk before the second delay began. Doing nothing more, Wainwright was awarded his 11th win an hour and a half later.
"Everywhere I go, I'm reminded of [the mustache] because I get snickered at, but it's served its purpose," said Wainwright, whose ERA dropped to 2.95. "We were two or three games below the leader when we started growing mustaches, and now we're ahead. I know it's not the mustache that makes us play better, but sometimes team morale needs to get flopped over, and the mustache has seemed to work."
Mark Selig is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.