The 2023 season, which St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright has said will be his last, wasn’t supposed to go like this. The 17th and final year — all with the Cardinals — for the 42-year-old franchise legend was supposed include more strong pitching performances and a run at a World Series title.
But Wainwright has battled injuries all season, and the Cardinals (67-83) will finish with a losing record for the first time since 2007.
Monday night, however, marked one of the most special nights of Wainwright’s storied career. He notched win No. 200, as the Cardinals defeated the Brewers, 1-0. He becomes the fifth active MLB pitcher with 200 wins, the 38th pitcher in National League history to reach the mark, and the third Cardinals pitcher to win 200 games.
Over seven innings (the longest outing of his season), Wainwright allowed just four hits (the fewest of his season) and zero runs (his first scoreless outing since Aug. 18, 2022). He became the oldest Cardinals pitcher with an appearance of seven or more scoreless innings. His first strikeout on the night was the 2,200th of his career, and his last two strikeouts moved him to 65th on the MLB all-time list.
“That’s one of the most fun games I’ve ever pitched in my whole life,” Wainwright said in his postgame press conference. “It certainly will go down as a top-three moment for me ever, baseball-wise. I’m glad I got to do it here in front of our fans.”
Adam Wainwright: "I am somewhat proud of the fact that it's hard to keep this guy down. I'm proud that every time I got knocked down, I got back up. … But you know what I had? I had incredible family behind me. I had incredible teammates and coaching staff behind me." #STLCards pic.twitter.com/Y2wjuEyrtv
— Bally Sports Midwest (@BallySportsMW) September 19, 2023
For a while it was looking like win No. 200 might not come. He was 0-10 with a 10.72 ERA over his 11 starts between June 24 and Sept. 7. But he was able to pick up No. 199 last week on the road in Baltimore, and then returned home to turn in his season-best performance for No. 200 (and his fifth win of the season).
Had he not earned the win Monday, he’s slated to only get two more starts before his career ends, and only one more start at home.
“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.”
“It’s been a duct-tape kind of year for me,” Wainwright admitted. “I’ve had my arm taped a few times, tonight I had my back taped up. … Having to work as hard as I had to work for it made me savor it that much more.”
To endure, Wainwright said he’s been relying on prayer.
“I’m living prayer to prayer out there. Not even pitch to pitch, just prayer to prayer,” he said in the press conference. “And I know Goldy [teammate Paul Goldschmidt] has told me several times that he stays in prayer while I’m out there pitching, just praying for me trying to finish the job. I’ve just got such a great support staff.”
"I love this city. I love being a St. Louis Cardinal, and I love that I got to play my whole career here."
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 19, 2023
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 19, 2023
Wainwright has also leaned on his wife for spiritual support. In 2020, Wainwright led 22,000 people through the Bible in a year, then continued in 2021. It was a big time commitment, but he felt it was well worth using the platform he’d established as a MLB pitcher to spread God’s Word.
“The first week of that, I remember saying, ‘I did not know what I was getting myself into,’” Wainwright told Sports Spectrum. “I said [to my wife], ‘Jenny, you’re going to have to help me through this because I feel like this might be the most important thing I’ve ever done.’”
Leading others through the Bible stemmed from Wainwright’s discipleship of teammates, which he’s done for years. Years ago he started a “Studs in the Word” text thread with teammates interested in Bible studies and conversations about God, and he’s led some of those teammates through the Bible in a year with the Bible Engagement Journal.
“We are looked up to as leaders, and naturally we have an ‘in’ with the younger players simply because we have the knowledge and experience that they want to learn from,” Wainwright told Sports Spectrum. “When we can also speak into their lives on deeper matters — on things besides baseball — it provides a huge opportunity for us to share Christ’s love with those who are eager to hear what we have to say.”
Wainwright also regularly brings teammates to the annual Pro Athletes Outreach conference, which is where he gave his life to Christ in 2002. Faith wasn’t much of a priority for him in his minor-league days, but his roommate, Blaine Boyer, and their agent, Steve Hammond, encouraged him to attend the conference. Wainwright wasn’t interested but relented when Hammond covered all the costs for him and Boyer to go.
When Pastor Joe Stoll came on stage and spoke about a relationship — not a religion — with Jesus, and talked about how there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, Wainwright’s ears perked up. He’s sure he had heard that message at some point previously, but on that day, he was finally ready to listen. He felt like Stoll was speaking directly to him.
“Right there on the spot,” Wainwright told Sports Spectrum, “I asked the Lord into my heart that day.”
More than 20 years later, he’s still attending the annual conferences. And in his final season of professional baseball, he’s still making an impact on the field for the Cardinals.
— Adam Wainwright surprises team, sings national anthem at final opening day
— MAGAZINE: Adam Wainwright & Wife Jenny Are All About Family Matters
— SS PODCAST: Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, wife Jenny on marriage, Jesus
— WATCH: ‘I ONCE WAS’ – MLB Pitcher Adam Wainwright
— Friends, teammates honor Adam Wainwright by investing in Water Mission project
— Adam Wainwright sets MLB record with Molina, continues to share Christ’s love
— ‘Follower of Jesus’ Adam Wainwright enjoying one of the best seasons at age 40