This story was excerpted from the Cardinals Beat newsletter by John Denton. To read the entire newsletter, click here. AND prepay so that it reaches your inbox regularly.
Louis, where the Cardinals won the National League-most 11 World Series titles, the most memorable seasons are usually associated with the Clydesdale horses that rode Busch Stadium during the World Series, unlikely heroes appeared October and parades flowed down Market Street in the heart of downtown cities.
However, there are always a few exceptions. About 25 years ago, Mark McGwire made fans forget the Cardinals’ 83-79 record in a home run duel for the ages with Sammy Sosa. And just last year St. Louis swept the underdog Phillies from the playoffs in two games. But this season will always be remembered for the return of Albert Pujols, his ability to once again summon greatness from that relatively small, two-color bat and blast his way to 703 career home runs.
Their 15-game winning streak in the NL came to an end this year. St. Louis was a heavy favorite to win the NL Central, but was the first team to be eliminated from the division race. Monday was also the 132nd of 167 days the Cards woke up in last place in their division, and they need a strong finish to avoid falling there for the first time in 33 years.
Could 42-year-old pitcher Adam Wainwright — one of the most respected and beloved players in franchise history — ease the sting by spinning his famous curveball Monday to hit the 200th of his career? Could Wainwright’s historic win over the rival Brewers at Busch Stadium serve as a lasting memory for 2023? The Cardinals right-hander’s closer is sure to be excited to see him make history again.
“I can’t wait,” said manager Oliver Marmol, who admitted he made his bullpen in Sunday’s 6-5 win over the Phillies with respect to Wainwright’s start Monday, knowing he would likely need as many arms as possible to finish. a potential 200th win. “Hopefully I’ll get a lead (on Wainwright) and I can close him out.
Wainwright, who announced 2023 will be his final season, set the stage for Monday’s potentially historic start by finally snapping an 11-start winless streak in Baltimore last Tuesday. Early in the season, as fans wished him luck in his pursuit of 200 wins, Wainwright smirked and thought, “‘If I only win five games, then it’s a crappy season;’ I can certainly do better,” he recalled recently. As it turned out, many of Wainwright’s games this season mirrored those of the Cardinals.
For Wainwright’s teammates, honoring his legacy would mean everything to them, as reigning NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt candidly admitted.
“Every time he takes the mound, as a teammate you always want to make sure your game is up to par,” Goldschmidt said. “It was always like that when Yadi (Molina) was catching. You don’t want to do anything to let these guys down. I think that mindset speaks to Wain’s competitiveness. Whether he’s struggled or had bad games, he still finds a way to get another out or go an extra inning. When you know what kind of teammate he is, how hard he competes and how he prepares, you always want to make sure your game is on par with his.
“There are many ways to lead, but the way he does it may be the most impressive,” Goldschmidt added. “Without saying anything, without even speaking, he always had a way of upping the game of those around him.