10/08/09 11:44 PM ET
Wainwright's outing inspires awe
Cards starter's eight superb innings make loss even tougher
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Adam Wainwright tendered a postseason masterpiece for eight innings of Game 2 of the National League Division Series, repeatedly going through the Dodgers' lineup, raising his esteem and their frustration."So good, almost impossible to describe under the circumstances," said Tony La Russa, his manager. "I can't describe it," concurred Joe Torre, the opposition manager. "Wainwright was a horse. I mean, he was incredible." And after eight innings, when he was spent, having emptied the final ounces from his tank escaping a bases-loaded jam, he retired with assurance. "Any time you have Ryan Franklin in the bullpen, you leave it behind with great confidence," Wainwright said. Normally, the same goes for having Matt Holliday in left field. But at dusk on a Southern Californian day, infamy found Holliday, who couldn't find the ball hit by James Loney. In slowly unfolding horror-story fashion, a win that appeared in the bank became a 3-2 loss, and Brendan Ryan was muttering in the visitors clubhouse that "crazy things can happen in baseball, and this was certainly crazy." Ryan Ludwick, watching the play unfold from the opposite field in right, thought that ball had some tricky top-spin. Wainwright felt "the ball got lost in 50,000 white towels" being hopefully waved by Dodger Stadium fans. Holliday himself said he lost the ball on its downward arc in the lights that had just begun taking effect. However the ball was lost, the game was lost in heartbreaking style. "It's a tough one. A tough one, man ... I don't know what to tell you," said Wainwright, who should have had the heaviest heart.
He had pitched it out for eight innings, and after it had all gone for naught, he didn't have any use for sympathy."Playoff baseball is completely different. It's a team game no matter how you win or lose," Wainwright said. "It's a team win, or a team loss. There's a lot of ways we could've won that game. "We had our chances to score more runs. I could've not given up a home run [to Andre Ethier, for the Dodgers' first hit with two outs in the fourth]. So I'm not going to put it all on the bullpen." It was difficult to determine which was most impressive about Wainwright. His overall body of work, a three-hitter embellished by seven strikeouts and uncanny command, 78 of 109 pitches being thrown for strikes? Or his tenacious escape of that bases-loaded strife in the eighth, when he got Matt Kemp to ground his 109th pitch weakly to first base for the 24th out? "It was like old-time baseball," Torre said, "where your starter is allowed to get out of jams." "Once we got out of that jam, yeah ... I thought we were in good shape," Wainwright said. "But from the first inning on, I thought we controlled that game. We were working good at-bats off [Clayton] Kershaw, a tough pitcher." But the Cardinals, again, did not work their best at-bats when it mattered most. They went 0-for-9 with men in scoring position, a day after having gone 2-for-13 in those circumstances in the 5-3 defeat in Game 1. "We kept making enough contact that we thought we could get some runs," La Russa said. "[Wainwright] had very little to work with. He was just outstanding. He made quality pitch after quality pitch. The lineup saw him several times, and he kept making adjustments." "It's tough to pick up his breaking balls," said Ronnie Belliard, the Dodgers' second baseman and one of their ninth-inning heroes. "And his risers ... he's not a soft thrower. He's tough." Tough? You want to tell Wainwright about tough? "It was a tough way to end up, for sure," he said. As he discussed the game, the letdown, he grimaced at times. But he never appeared crestfallen, and certainly didn't sound beaten. "It's not over. Anyone who thinks this series is over has another thing coming," Wainwright said. "They call it home-field advantage for a reason, and we came into their park and ground out two tough games. "We had our chances the first game, and probably should've won this game. Now we go back to our park, and we're supposed to win two in there." He paused for a minute, and finally concluded, "I'm ready to rock Saturday. The most unfortunate thing about today is that it means we'll have to fly back here [for a Game 5 on Tuesday]."