CINCINNATI — His evening over early and his ERA battered by the seven runs he allowed, Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright gave his teammates some high fives, left them an upside-down game, and retreated to the trainer’s room to tend to his arm.
He watched the game continue on television, and then Harrison Bader singled to open the sixth. Two more singles followed and a run and another run, and another. Wainwright sensed the crackle from the dugout.
He’d seen something like this before, from a similar seat.
“As soon as we got a little momentum, it was like everybody could feel it,” Wainwright said. “I could feel it. Something is fixing to happen here.”
The Cardinals vaporized Cincinnati’s early seven-run lead with a 10-run torrent in the sixth inning that sent them toward a 12-11 victory Friday night at Great American Ball Park. Jose Martinez had two hits in the runaway inning, including a three-run homer at its climax. Paul DeJong had a two-run double in the outburst, and he added a two-run homer in the seventh to provide the winning run because of an adventurous ninth inning.
The Cardinals won for the sixth time in eight games since the All-Star break, and they rallied to win for the third time in as many days.
The 10-run inning was the Cardinals’ biggest single-inning outburst on the road since June 2007, against Oakland, and their comeback was their largest since flipping the Reds’ 8-0 lead at their ballpark in May 2002.
The 10-run inning was the Cardinals’ biggest single-inning outburst since a 12-run spree in July 2012 against the Cubs, and their comeback was their largest since flipping the Reds’ 8-0 lead at their ballpark in May 2002.
“Same thing,” said Jim Edmonds, who played in that win and had a prominent role in a seven-run ninth inning rally in 2005 in Cincinnati. “Just be relentless.”
Wainwright made it all possible. As much as Pete Kozma’s name still sends shivers around Washington’s beltway and Daniel Descalso claims his October moment from 2012, the joke Wainwright told for a few years after the Cardinals shocked the Nationals was the monumental rally would not have been possible without him. He allowed six runs to Washington. He left the decisive Game 5 of that National League division series trailing 6-0. He set the stage for that unlikely win. There would be no drama if not for him.
On Friday, he did it one better.
The Reds skewered him for seven runs on nine hits before Wainwright could get his 11th out of the game. With a first-pitch temperature of 92 degrees and no breeze in the ballpark or fans in the dugout, Wainwright called the environment “stifling.” He made the mistake of not sneaking inside to cool down between innings and as a veteran “I’ve got to know better.”
Reds catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who started the week in the Yankees’ minors, batted ninth and tagged Wainwright for an RBI double in the third and mashed a three-run homer to bounce Wainwright from the game in the fourth, the Cardinals trailing, 7-0.
“It wouldn’t have been a comeback if I hadn’t pitched terrible,” Wainwright said.
The innings vacated by Wainwright and the need to get extended work from reliever Michael Wacha meant manager Mike Shildt used a double-switch. The move appeared fruitful because Wacha would get to scrape loose from rust and Bader could get a run in center, stealing some 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. That switch turned on the offense.
Having watched the first five innings from the bench and studying Reds starter Tyler Mahle, Bader expected a fastball and singled to open the sixth. When the inning came back around, he walked. He scored each time.
“The initial thought, regardless of the score, is just to make an impact from pitch one,” Bader said. “In that situation, we needed a lot of runs. The name of the game is production, whether it’s the first inning as a starter or in my case, whenever I came in, there’s no excuse not to produce.”
Bader’s single was followed by two more to load the bases. Paul Goldschmidt brought home the Cardinals’ first run with his first sacrifice fly since Sept. 2017. Tyler O’Neill’s RBI single followed.
The Reds turned to former Cardinals reliever Matt Bowman to quell the uprising. With Bowman, of Princeton, and Lavarnway, of Yale, the Reds had an all-Ivy League battery with one out in the sixth. That’s when it really started to smart. After Kolten Wong’s sacrifice fly to score the Cards’ third run of the inning, DeJong lashed a double down the right-field line to chase Bowman. Andrew Knizner followed with a double off the wall. He scored to tie the game when Joey Votto mishandled a grounder.
Martinez capitalized with a three-run homer to pull ahead, 10-7.
“Those opportunities – you’ve got to take advantage,” he said.
The 10 runs were the most in a single inning for the Cardinals since July 21, 2012, when they scored 12 in the seventh inning against the Cubs. The inning featured eight hits, three Cardinals who scored two runs, three extra-base hits, and four unearned runs. The Cardinals sent 13 to the plate. With two runs scoring on sacrifice flies, every at-bat had a positive outcome for the Cardinals until the final one of the inning.
“That doesn’t just happen,” Shildt said. “It happens through determination.”
DeJong’s homer in the seventh provided required insurance at Great American Ball Park. Lavarnway, signed Thursday by the Reds, hit his second homer of the game in the eighth for a career-high six RBIs. When the ninth went sideways on closer Carlos Martinez, there was Lavarnway again, up as the potential tying run. He walked and got all the way to third base with former MVP Joey Votto at the plate. Martinez, on his 27th pitch, he got a sharp grounder from Votto to end the game and not spoil the unexpected inning.
After Martinez’s homer, Wainwright raced from the trainer’s room to the dugout. He was in shorts and T-shirt, not yet done with standard post-game treatment.
But he was fixing to give a few more high fives.
“That’s a championship mentality, championship determination,” Shildt said. “That’s the quintessential definition of competition. You’re down 7-0 and you fight like heck and there wasn’t a guy in that dugout who didn’t believe we could do it, and we did.”