Adam Wainwright towered in front of his locker Thursday night after his St. Louis Cardinals lost 2-1 in Game 4 and was asked when he would start mentally preparing for Game 5.
“A few minutes ago,” he said.
With their season on the line and ace lefty Gio Gonzalez on the bump for the Nationals, St. Louis will hand the ball to Wainwright Friday evening in a pivotal Game 5. The 6-foot-7 closer-turned-starter is 6-3 since August 1 and has plenty of playoff experience.
Wainwright made a name for himself as a closer in 2006, after regular closer Jason Isringhausen was lost to injury. The lanky right-hander stepped in and picked up four postseason saves, including the one that won the Cardinals the 2006 World Series.
St. Louis will need him to be just as clutch Friday night - and this time carry it over through five or more innings.
“Of course I wish we would’ve won tonight, but you know what, this is every pitcher’s dream,” Wainwright said Thursday. “Every competitor’s dream is to go into huge moments like that, and so I look forward to the challenge… I think in my case I can look at big moments I’ve been in before and build off that, and dig deep.”
Wainwright missed the Cardinals’ championship run last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in February 2011 and said he feels blessed to be a part of their push this time around. He started Game 1 of the National League Division Series and received a no-decision after 5 2/3 innings in which he allowed one earned run, walked three and struck out ten.
The 31-year-old has watched his rotation mates build on his strong performance – St. Louis has held the Nationals to a .167 batting average in the last two games – and said he has one big take away from the series so far.
“Hitting a baseball’s real hard. It’s the hardest thing in sports,” Wainwright said. “As a pitcher, if you go out there and you make your pitches and you throw it where you want to and keep ‘em off-balance, you’re going to be in pretty good shape probably. And that’s what I’m going to try to do tomorrow.”
Despite losing Game 4 is the most painful way imaginable, players throughout the Cardinals clubhouse said they had nothing but confidence entering Game 5. When asked for an explanation, a lot of guys brought up the same reason.
“Well, we’ve got Adam Wainwright on the mound,” shortstop Daniel Descalso said. “He’s a great big game pitcher.”