Adam Wainwright channeled his inner Cliff Lee against the Colorado Rockies, using both his arm and his bat to take down the Rockies 4-3. While his two-way performance wasn’t quite as dominant as Lee’s, it deserves recognition nonetheless. The Cardinals righthander went 7.2 strong innings in hitter-friendly Coors Field, allowing ten hits and three runs with seven strikeouts.
His lone walk was surrendered to Josh Rutledge, the last hitter he faced. The boxscore doesn’t do Wainwright’s start justice. He threw 89/121 (74%) of his pitches for strikes, and 56% of batted balls (14/25) were on the ground. His game FIP and xFIP were a paltry 1.35 and 1.89, respectively.
As if his effort on the mound wasn’t enough, Wainwright went 3-3 at the plate with a double, 2 RBI, and a run scored. Lee’s 3-hit performance came in a 12-2 blowout of the Florida Marlins in a September matchup against two NL East teams that have been out of it since before the All-Star break.
The NL Central-leading Cardinals needed every bit of Wainwright’s hitting to eke out a victory against the Rockies. In doing so, they increased their lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates to two games.
After a couple of rough starts against the Cincinnati Reds where he surrendered 15 runs in just 8 innings, Wainwright appears to have gotten back on track. The 32 year-old Tommy John survivor has matched the dominance of his 2009 and 2010 campaigns. His 2.54 FIP and 2.78 xFIP are career bests. A stingy 3.8 BB% and 68% strike rate are also career marks.
While his hitting isn’t quite what it was in his younger days (.290/.323/.387 in 2007), Wainwright is not an automatic out, as the Rockies found out Wednesday night. Pitcher hitting is often overlooked, but at the extremes it can make a difference, as the Pittsburgh Pirates and their league-worst .240 OPS can attest to.
In the playoffs Wainwright might be the only Cardinals pitcher going deep into games, and an extra hit or two could have a big impact as it did Wednesday.