April 6, 2007: A clutch double play and three RBIs from Chris Duncan help Adam Wainwright win his first MLB start

By the time Adam Wainwright made his first start, his bona fides as a stopper already had earned their place in St. Louis Cardinals history.

During the 2006 playoffs, Wainwright made nine scoreless appearances, including four saves. In the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres, he threw 1 1/3 innings in Game 2 to earn the save. In the National League Championship Series against the New York Mets, he added two more saves, punctuated by his memorable strikeout of Carlos Beltran to end Game 7. In the World Series, he pitched the final inning of Game 5 against the Detroit Tigers to clinch the Cardinals’ 10th world championship.

So when St. Louis entered Wainwright’s first career start on April 6, 2007, in the midst of a three-game losing streak that included twice as many errors (four) as RBIs (two), the 6-foot-7 right-hander wasn’t nervous. Instead, he gave the Cardinals their first real glimpse of his potential as a major league starter.

In seven innings against a Houston Astros lineup led by Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman, and Carlos Lee, Wainwright scattered five hits and three walks, allowing just one run while striking out four in a 4-2 Cardinals win. Wainwright complemented his pitching with an RBI double and a couple of key defensive plays, and outfielder Chris Duncan drove in three of the Cardinals’ four runs.

“The only thing I was thinking about was trying to pitch my heart out until the end of the game,” Wainwright said. “I didn’t want to let the team down.”[1]

After Astros lefthander Wandy Rodriguez retired the Cardinals in order in the top of the first, Wainwright’s career as a starting pitcher began with a seven-pitch at-bat against a future Hall of Famer in Biggio, who flied out to catcher Yadier Molina.

After Rodriguez and Wainwright each pitched perfect second innings, Wainwright helped his own cause in the top of the third. So Taguchi led off with a single up the middle and Wainwright followed with a double off the warning track. David Eckstein flied out to right field to advance Wainwright to third and Duncan homered to give St. Louis a 3-0 lead.

In the fourth, Houston responded with its only run off Wainwright. Mike Lamb led off the inning with his second walk of the game. Berkman followed with a single to center and Lee hit a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 3-1. After Luke Scott singled, Wainwright struck out Chris Burke, then got Adam Everett to ground the ball back to him for the final out of the inning.

Wainwright showed off his glove again in the bottom of the seventh. Burke led off the inning with a double into the left-field corner before Everett singled. With runners on first and third, Brad Ausmus laid down a bunt. Wainwright pounced on the ball and threw home to Molina, who tagged out Burke, then threw Ausmus out at first for a double play.

“That is such a great play,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “I don’t know how you can top it. The best part was how clutch it was.”[2]

Astros manager Phil Garner inserted Mark Loretta in as a pinch hitter for Rodriguez, but Wainwright snagged his ground ball back up the middle to end the inning.

“Heck, that’s the game right there,” Wainwright said of the Cardinals’ defense. “They could’ve very easily tied it up. Instead, we came away unscathed.”[3]

With two outs in the top of the eighth, La Russa called on Scott Spiezio to pinch hit for Wainwright, ending the rookie right-hander’s day after 101 pitches.

Spiezio drew a walk and Eckstein followed with a single to left. Duncan, who had hit just .170 against left-handed pitching the previous year, once again came through. The left-handed slugger lofted a fly ball down the right field line that was ruled fan interference for a ground-rule double. Spiezio came around to score, making the score 4-1.

Duncan finished the game with three hits and three RBIs.

“It helps my confidence a little bit,” Duncan said. “I just started seeing the ball better throughout the game.”[4]

Ryan Franklin and Randy Flores combined to hold the Astros scoreless in the eight before Houston scored one in the ninth on an RBI single by Orlando Palmeiro against Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen.

Garner called on Jason Lane to pinch hit for Ausmus, but Isringhausen got him to fly out to right fielder Preston Wilson for the final out of the game and the 250th save of Isringhausen’s career.


[1] Chris Duncan, “Cards land first victory,” Springfield News-Leader, April 7, 2007: Page 3D.

[2] Chris Duncan, “Cards land first victory,” Springfield News-Leader, April 7, 2007: Page 3D.

[3] Chris Duncan, “Cards land first victory,” Springfield News-Leader, April 7, 2007: Page 3D.

[4] Chris Duncan, “Cards land first victory,” Springfield News-Leader, April 7, 2007: Page 3D.

 

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