Cardinals veteran moundsman Adam Wainwright is retiring after parts of 18 major-league seasons, all with St. Louis. He recently notched career win No. 200, but shoulder and rib problems mean he wasn't be able to take the mound again after that benchmark victory. In order to give Wainwright a fitting send-off during the Cardinals' final series of the season, manager Oli Marmol said he would look for an opportunity to give him an at-bat, provided the outcome of the game didn't hang in the balance and matter in the postseason chase. That's what happened on Friday and, to the surprise of the Busch Stadium crowd, Wainwright was also able to come to the plate on Sunday in the season finale. Sunday also occasioned a pre-game ceremony to honor Wainwright, so his eighth-inning at-bat was particularly fitting.
First came Friday's AB. Cincinnati, still clinging to slim wild-card hopes at the time, barged to a 14-2 lead, and in the sixth inning Wainwright got his chance as a pinch-hitter for DH Luken Baker. Here's a look at his reception by the home crowd:
Wainwright, who homered three times during batting practice before the game, fouled a 93-mph fastball from Brandon Williamson straight back and then hit a sharp ground-out to second. Notably, the grounder left Wainwright's bat at a robust 102.1 mph. Wainwright has long been a useful hitter by the standards of pitchers. In the pre-universal DH days, he won a Silver Slugger and hit 10 home runs in his career.
Then on Sunday, Marmol -- perhaps in response to "We want Waino!" chants from the home crowd -- summoned him once again:
And, yes, that's Wainwright's old battery-mate Yadier Molina, who retired after last season. The day to honor Wainwright was the first time Molina's been back at Busch Stadium since his retirement. The pre-game ceremony also included old teammate Albert Pujols and a special surprise for the Wainwright family in the form of a puppy that his children had apparently been asking for.
As for the at-bat, Wainwright struck out on five pitches against Alan Busenitz, who challenged him with four fastballs and a sinker, all in the mid-90s. Wainwright was able to make solid contact on a pair of foul balls, however.
In the end the Cardinals were able to "win one for Waino" with a 4-3 victory over the Reds. It's been a disappointing season for the last-place Cardinals, but thanks to one of the most beloved players in franchise history it ended on a high note.