Five years ago, if you’d asked most people who holds the record for the most starts by a battery, people not only wouldn’t know, they’d be surprised that that actually was some sort of record that MLB kept up with. (Then again, baseball keeps up with everything.) After last night, at least Cardinal fans are going to know the answer to that question for a long, long time.
The most remarkable thing about Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina getting to 325 might be the fact that they should have gotten to it much, much earlier. After all, Waino missed all of 2011 and much of 2015, and even when he did return in the latter year he was a reliever. That’s probably 55-60 starts right there that you could add to the tally. Then there’s the whole pandemic year, which cut the season so short (and, for the Cardinals, crammed many of their 60 games into double headers). Wainwright had 10 starts that season so maybe another 20, assuming health. It’s reasonable to think last night could have been a celebration of them hitting their 400th game together. (To be fair, if the record had already been established, Molina might not have returned this year.)
325 games is a long time to work together, especially when we aren’t talking about something that happens each game but rather once or twice a week. Meet Me at Musial is at 255 episodes but Allen hasn’t been there for all of them (I’d guess we’re partnered up on about 220 or so of them) and we’ve been at it for six years that feels like forever. There’s no doubt those two have trouble remembering a time when they weren’t partners and friends. It’s an incredible achievement and one that just won’t happen again. Find me a catcher that’s going to catch for 18 years for the same team and be out there so regularly. Just that part of the equation is hard, but then adding in finding a pitcher that will pitch for almost that long and for the same team and stay healthy enough to make 25-30 starts a year. With the opener and tweaks in traditional pitching, that might not happen either. I don’t know if this record is in the same category as Joe DiMaggio‘s hitting streak or Cal Ripken’s consecutive games played streak or Cy Young‘s win total but it’s probably only a small step below.
Of course, nights like this are great but they lose a little luster if the Cards don’t win and, early on, it looked like that was a distinct possibility. Wainwright came out focused and throwing strikes, but that lead to a number of flares and less-than-solid hits. The Brewers pieced together two hits and a walk in the first but Wainwright got Andrew McCutchen to ground out back to him, ending the threat. In the second, the first two batters reached via hits, the third brought in a run with a sacrifice fly, and then Christian Yelich singled to put two on with one out. Uncle Charlie got out of that but was already at 50 pitches.
That turned out to be the only run that the Brewers got. Now, with Corbin Burnes on the mound, one run could have been all they needed, but Nolan Arenado homered in the second to tie it up, Yadi singled in a run later in that inning to put the Cards ahead, Lars Nootbaar went deep to lead off the fifth, and Albert Pujols doubled in a run off the Brewer bullpen in the eighth. All that meant that 325 was a win for Wainwright and the club, putting them back up eight and lowering the magic number to 12.
Figuring out a Hero is tough, given how the offense was spread out. Paul Goldschmidt was the only batter with more than one hit, the second a flare that dropped into no man’s land, but he didn’t score or drive in a run. I guess I’ll go with Yadier Molina, because he had the game winning RBI and, hey, it was at least in part his day. We’ll give the Goat to Tommy Edman, who went 0-4 and left three on while leading off.
It was good to see a stronger outing from Andre Pallante this time. Pallante threw a scoreless inning and truly may have needed a little more rest after that big outing at the end of August. We’ll see if the club can stay away from him for a couple more days and how that works. Jordan Hicks, Giovanny Gallegos, and Ryan Helsley all threw scoreless frames with two strikeouts, perhaps invigorated to close this one down for the two legends.
You wonder–exactly how does 2023 not seem like a disappointment? There’s been so much history and emotion packed into this season (and hopefully more to come) that it’s going to be hard for next season not to feel like a bit of a letdown. That’s something for later, of course, and hopefully there will be more exciting things then that we don’t know about, but 2022 is definitely going to be a season long remembered!