ST. LOUIS — With his final season winding down, Adam Wainwright was stuck on 198 wins for nearly three months.
And then in a span of seven days, he found that old form and reached a major milestone.
“For at least a night I was a real pitcher out there, the guy that I want to be,” said Wainwright, who plans to retire after the season. “Seven innings, shutout, a couple of hits, got through a couple of tough ABs out there and made adjustments, worked in and out, up and down.”
It was the longest outing this season for the 42-year-old Wainwright (5-11), who struck out three and walked two. He has won consecutive starts — both against first-place teams — after going 0-10 with a 10.72 ERA over his previous 11 games between June 24 and Sept. 7.
“That’s as good as we’ve seen,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “If you talked to him right before the game, and if he’s being really honest, he was being held up by duct tape before the game started, and for him to go out there and do what he did is highly impressive.”
The right-hander became the 38th pitcher in National League history to reach 200 wins, and the 24th major leaguer to achieve the milestone since 2000.
He’s the third pitcher in Cardinals history to reach 200 wins (Bob Gibson, Jesse Haines). And he’s the fifth active pitcher to reach the mark (Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw); Johnny Cueto (144) and Gerrit Cole (143) are next on the wins list.
Wainwright said the feeling was comparable to his emotions while closing out the 2006 World Series as a rookie reliever.
“Tonight, for me, this is tied for first,” he said.
Willson Contreras homered off Freddy Peralta (12-9) in the fourth. Milwaukee lost its second straight, and its magic number to clinch the NL Central remained at seven. The Brewers hold a six-game lead over the Chicago Cubs with 12 to play.
Contreras was especially emotional about Wainwright once the game ended.
“I know he’s been battling a lot of stuff and he’s been pitching the best that he can this year,” Contreras said. “And I’m glad that he was able to reach the 200 mark on wins. And I’m glad that I was back behind the plate for him.”
“I didn’t want to tip my hat or anything because I didn’t know if I was done,” Wainwright said. “But I did feel that crowd and it was a special walk off.”
Wainwright’s first strikeout of the game, against Rowdy Tellez, was the 2,200th of his career. His last two punchouts moved him past David Wells for 65th on the all-time list.
“He just kept guys off balance,” Marmol said. “He didn’t have what he had last time as far as the [velocity] being there, but there weren’t a whole lot of comfortable swings or hard-hit balls for the most part. He went through that lineup and was in control the whole time. It was just fun to watch him out there competing.”
Wainwright became the oldest Cardinals pitcher with an outing of seven or more scoreless innings. He surpassed Jim Kaat, who was 41 when he threw a 10-inning shutout in June 1980.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.