The Man. The Myth. The Wagonmaker.

You can’t call anyone The Man in St. Louis, for obvious reasons.  That said, last night Adam Wainwright was maybe a glimpse of what Stan Musial would have been had he stayed on the mound.

Wainwright had trouble settling in, giving up two runs in the first inning and causing waves of despair to roll around some of the Twitterati.  After that first inning, though, he allowed just one more in six and two-thirds and did everything he could to balance the ledger.

And I do mean everything.

Wainwright gathered three hits, drove in two runs, and scored another.  He made the Rockies pay for intentionally walking Daniel Descalso to get to him.  Normally, Waino might not get the Hero tag for three runs in almost eight innings, but almost any hitter would have gotten it for the line he put up at the plate last night.  It was an incredible all-around performance.

Incredible pitching.  Great charity work.  Goofy dances.  Now adding hitting to the mix?  Move over, Dos Equis guy.  Adam Wainwright is now The Most Interesting Man In The World.

We normally say that a pitcher couldn’t do it by himself.  Wainwright almost did last night, but there were a few others that chipped in.  It was another multi-hit game for Matt Carpenter, which basically means there was a game on the schedule since Carp does that just about every night.  Yadier Molina also had a couple of hits as he looks to be coming out of that slump he was in last week.

I want to give the Goat to Edward Mujica for giving me a heart attack last night, but I won’t.  Still, you could see how this game wasn’t going to end well.  Two outs, bases loaded, and local hero Todd Helton up?  The story just about wrote itself.  Thankfully Helton wasn’t able to complete the script or catch up to Mujica’s fastball and the Cards escaped without a deflating loss.

(There’s a reason Helton is so revered.  Look at his quote after the game: “The moment was great.  You couldn’t ask for a better moment.  You could ask for a lot better result.”  That’s a guy that appreciates baseball, win or lose.)

Since I won’t give it to Mujica (and kudos, before I forget, to Trevor Rosenthal for shaking off Monday’s outing and stranding the runners Wainwright left on base), let’s go with David Freese.  Placed in the cleanup slot since Carlos Beltran was getting a much-needed night of rest, Freese’s recent offensive stirrings didn’t translate, going 0-4 and leaving five men on base.

That wasn’t the worst news of the night, though.  Matt Adams left the game with an elbow problem, the same one he’s had trouble on in the past.  It seems quite unlikely he’ll play today, but hopefully this is just a short-term issue.  With Allen Craig already out of commission, losing a first baseman is the last thing you want to see.  Matheny might move Molina there today, but with a young pitcher going, he might not want to go that route.  I’m guessing he’ll put Freese at first, Carpenter at third and Kolten Wong will get the start, but we’ll see later this morning when the lineup goes up.

San Diego is becoming the second-favorite team in the St. Louis area this week as they rallied in the ninth to beat Pittsburgh for the third straight day, letting the Cards open up their lead a little more.  Houston rallied to tie the Reds, but couldn’t complete the deal and the Nationals fell to the Braves.  The Cards grip on home field in the first round, at least, got tighter as the Dodgers lost again.  Here’s where we stand today:

Atlanta ——
St. Louis 1.0
Los Angeles 3.0
Pittsburgh 3.0
Cincinnati 3.5
Washington 9.0

That loss, and the Reds being able to avoid Houston’s best shot, really did a number on the Nationals’ chances of a wild card.  I put them on the list today given their success against the Braves this week, but they are just about done.

Today, we get some afternoon baseball.  San Diego goes for the sweep against the Pirates, with Ian Kennedy, who shut out Pittsburgh for seven innings in San Diego last month, going up against Gerrit Cole.  There seems little chance of the Pirates actually getting swept, but I didn’t think they’d lose the series.  That one goes off at 11:35 Central, so you can check it out at lunch if you want.

Half an hour after the Cardinals get started, Los Angeles tries to rebound, sending Ricky Nolasco against Arizona and Wade Miley.  Nolasco got beat around last time, but this should be a pretty solid pitching matchup.

Neither the Reds nor the Braves play today (and the Nats are off as well), meaning they could tie up Pittsburgh for second with a Pirates loss going into their first of two series this weekend.  Cardinal fans are still trying to figure out who they want to win that series, but I think we all want to see it wind up 2-1 in someone’s favor while the Redbirds sweep the Brewers.

There’s no doubt the Cards are a loose bunch, if you saw them have fun with “Hump Day” yesterday.  Mike Matheny does know how to do understatement, it seems: “I wasn’t expecting a camel on a bicycle.”  If nothing else, it seems that John Axford, who led this whole experiment, is fitting in nicely with this group of characters.  Though I expect the next time that Matheny does a bunt, like he did last night with two on, nobody out, and Jon Jay up, we should be able to say, “Mike Mike Mike Mike Mike, what year is it?”

Cards look to take the series today with Michael Wacha getting his first taste of Coors.  Hopefully the lessons that Wainwright has imparted this week, about trusting your stuff and having the right mindset to play there, will sink in to a guy that seems to be taking it all to heart.  Wacha’s stuff is probably good enough that he can do well even if he’s not as dominant as he’s been in the past.

There will be no issue with the Cardinals not knowing Wacha’s opposing number.  Roy Oswalt has been a thorn in the side of St. Louis in the past, with those great years in Houston and we all remember him taking the momentum of Albert Pujols‘s legendary home run and putting it back in the bottle as Houston went on to the 2005 World Series.

That said, more recently they’ve been able to do more with him.  They beat him as a member of the Phillies in 2011 and there’s no doubt that Oswalt’s best days are behind him.  To wit, his 2013 mark is 0-6 with a 7.71 ERA.  He’s lost every start he’s made and four out of six times has given up five runs or more.  (One of the times he didn’t, he only threw 1.2 innings.)

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP
Yadier Molina 36 36 12 3 0 0 2 0 3 .333 .333 .417 .750 0 0 0 0
Carlos Beltran 34 31 11 2 0 1 8 2 8 .355 .382 .516 .898 0 1 0 0
Matt Holliday 25 24 7 2 0 0 1 0 0 .292 .320 .375 .695 0 0 0 1
Jon Jay 11 11 2 0 0 1 1 0 1 .182 .182 .455 .636 0 0 0 0
David Freese 7 7 3 2 0 1 5 0 3 .429 .429 1.143 1.571 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 7 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .400 .400 .400 .800 2 0 0 0
Allen Craig 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Total 130 124 39 9 0 3 18 2 19 .315 .328 .460 .788 2 1 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/19/2013.

Looking at that chart, I was a little surprised that there were so few at bats for so many people, but it really points out how much this roster has changed, how young it is, and how long ago things like 2005 were.  I don’t like to think about the latter, because that means I’m getting old and that’s just not appropriate Thursday fodder.

Afternoon baseball from Colorado means a gorgeous tableau for the game to be played on.  I hope the results are just as pretty!

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