CINCINNATI — As much as the name Pete Kozma still sends shivers around Washington’s beltway and Daniel Descalso claimed his October moment way back then in 2012, the joke starter Adam Wainwright would often make was their clutch roles in a monumental comeback would not have been possible without him.
The only reason the Cardinals had a six-run deficit to overcome in Game 5 of the 2012 National League division series at Washington was because he allowed six runs. He provided the drama, he deadpanned.
On Friday, he did it one better.
The Cincinnati Reds skated to a 7-0 lead by the middle of the fourth inning and forced Wainwright from his start before he could get an 11th out. Rather than steadily, consistently chewing away at the lead as the long-ago Cardinals did for Wainwright against the Nats, these Cardinals binged. They scored 10 runs in the sixth inning at Great American Ball Park and with a 12-11 victory forged their biggest single-game comeback since May 12, 2002. The Cardinals trailed that night, 8-0, before rallying to win against Cincinnati, at the same ballpark.
Shortstop Paul DeJong had a two-run double in the decisive inning and a two-run homer to expand the Cardinals’ lead later. Harrison Bader, a midgame sub because of the upside-down score, started the inning with a single and scored twice in the sixth as the Cardinals would score 12 unanswered runs. They won for the sixth time in eight games, and they have outscored the runs 15-1 in the sixth innings of this four-game series so far.
Wainwright made it all possible by allowing seven runs on nine hits through 3 1/3 innings. Starting with long reliever Michael Wacha, the Cardinals bullpen bought time for a Great American comeback and then held on – barely – through a succession of late bursts by the Reds. Carlos Martinez handled an adventurous ninth for his seventh save of the season. In true Cincy style, it did not come easily as the Reds brought the tying run to the plate in catcher Ryan Lavarnway. He already had a career-best six RBIs in the game and two homers. Martinez walked him, and a two-run single followed to put the tying run at third for Joey Votto.
On the brink of squandering the Cardinals’ bountiful comeback, Martinez got a hard groundout to first base to end the game.
The need to get extended coverage from reliever Wacha after Wainwright’s dud meant Shildt had to use a double-switch. That option proved immediately fruitful because in a 7-0 ballgame it also allowed him to steal a few innings of rest for center fielder Dexter Fowler. It was as close as a double-switch gets to a win-win in a game the Cardinals were lose-losing by so much.
The simple switch provided the initial spark.
With Fowler out and Wacha in, Harrison Bader moved to the No. 9 spot in the order – the spot leading off the sixth inning. Bader struck a single up the middle and away the Cardinals went. His single was the first of three consecutive to load the bases for No. 3 hitter Paul Goldschmidt. The Cardinals’ first baseman skied a ball to left field that went to the track. It was caught there for a sacrifice fly – Goldschmidt’s first since September 2017. That put a scar on the scoreboard for the first time. A single by Tyler O’Neill brought home another run and brought in reliever Matt Bowman, the former Cardinal fireman.
Bowman, from Princeton, and catcher Ryan Lavarnway, of Yale, formed an all-Ivy League battery for the Reds.
Then the inning really started to smart.
Another single loaded the bases, another sacrifice fly brought in a run, and then DeJong’s double against Bowman opened up the game. DeJong scored on Andrew Knizner’s double off the wall, and when Joey Votto failed to field a sharp grounder by Tommy Edman, Knizner scored to tie the game, 7-7. Bowman was bounced from the inning after DeJong’s double, and so it was reliever Jared Hughes sprinting out of the bullpen and into the fire. Martinez, the fourth batter to face him, greeted him with the three-run homer to complete the inning, break the tie, and send members of the press box scurrying through history to find the last time the Cardinals pulled of an inning like that. The seven runs before Martinez’s homer tied the high for the season, but 10 had to be longer ago.
The Cardinals last scored 10 runs in an inning on July 21, 2012, in the seventh inning against the Cubs at Busch Stadium. The last time the Cardinals scored as many as 10 runs in a single inning on the road was the fifth inning at Oakland on June 16, 2007.
In the inning Friday, the Cardinals got 10 runs on eight hits. Two of the hits were doubles – back-to-back doubles, to be precise – and another of the hits was Martinez’s homer. Two of the 10 runs scored on sacrifice flies, leaving only the final out of the inning as the only plate appearance of the inning that did not have a positive outcome for the Cardinals. A total of 13 batters came to the plate for the Cardinals. It took the Reds three pitchers to get three outs. They got one each. And Martinez’s home run traveled 414 feet, leaving his bat at 105 mph.
The Cardinals widened their lead with DeJong’s two-run homer in the seventh inning. It was his second homer in as many days and gave him at least three RBIs for the second time in as many games.
“He’s a guy when he’s swinging the bat well, clearly as we saw,” Shildt said before Friday’s game, “this is a guy who can do damage.”
The insurance proved valuable, as usual, for Great American Ball Park.
Lavarnway began the week as a member of the Yankees organization, working away as a former big-league catcher at Class AAA. Tested by injuries to two catchers, both of whom went on the injured list Thursday afternoon, the Reds were able to sign Lavarnway to a major-league contract that same day and have him in the clubhouse and available to start Friday. He responded with a career day. Lavarnway homered twice and drove home a career-best six RBIs.
His first homer of the game was a three-run shot that jettisoned Wainwright from the game four batters into the fourth inning. Lavarnway’s second homer came in the eighth inning and provided the Reds two runs to tidy up the score a tad.
Cincinnati manager David Bell wasn’t around for any of it – Wainwright’s struggles, Lavarnway’s homers, or his team’s conflagration in the sixth inning. Bell and third baseman Eugenio Suarez were ejected at the start of the second inning. Suarez fumed about a called strike on his way out to his position, third base, and home-plate umpire Carlos Torres ejected him. Bell followed, getting ejected for the seventh time this season. With more than 60 game remaining in the season, Bell already has set the Cincinnati record for most ejections in a season by a manager.
The record, of six, had been set in 1910.
Cardinals continue kid catcher Knizner's collaborative with veteran Wainwright
The joke around the Cardinals' clubhouse, and you've probably heard it too by now because it contains a kernel or two of truth, has been that as many times as Yadier Molina has caught Adam Wainwright he's lagging behind in the past two years, trailing prospect Andrew Knizner.
The combination of Wainwright's rehab assignments and Molina's recent absence on the injured list has given a chance for a continued battery of veteran and rookie.
In the second game of the Cardinals' four-day visit to Cincinnati, Knizner will catch Wainwright, reconnecting for the same tandem that combined for seven shutout innings against Arizona this past weekend. Wainwright has gone six consecutive starts without allowing more than three runs, and in four of his previous seven starts he's pitched at least six innings. His seven shutout innings against Arizona came one shy of matching his season high. His eight shutout innings came at home against the Cubs on June 2.
Guess who his catcher was that day?
Knizner entered the season as the heir apparent to Molina at catcher, and he has done everything this season to maximize his rare starts in the majors. Molina has been sidelined by a torn tendon in his thumb, and the Cardinals still around 10 days of complete rest for the catcher before they re-evaluate his hand for healing and possible rehab. During this time, Matt Wieters has been the usual starter, and he scored a couple of runs in the Cardinals' victory Thursday night.
Knizner has spelled Wieters, got his first major-league hit this past week against the Pirates, and the chemistry with Wainwright gives manager Mike Shildt the reason to continue linking the two.
Here's the lineup that will back Wainwright:
1. Tommy Edman, 3B -- Coming off his first grand slam
2. Jose Martinez, RF
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Tyler O'Neill, LF
5. Dexter Fowler, CF
6. Kolten Wong, 2B
7. Paul DeJong, SS -- Homered, 3 RBIs on Thursday
8. Andrew Knizner, C
9. Adam Wainwright, P
There will be updates later in this article and throughout the afternoon here at C-Beat and StlToday.com. There will be game coverage that appears in this same space this evening.