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Cards rattle the Diamondbacks 5-2

Adam Wainwright yells support to teammates as he leaves the game after pitching seven scoreless innings in his Cardinals' 5-2 victory over Arizona on Sunday, July 14, 2019 at Busch Stadium. (Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com)

As starting pitchers go, Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright might have taken the biggest pay cut in history — from $19.5 million last year at the end of a five-year deal to a $2 million base this year. This has forced him essentially to sing for his supper, with incremental additions to his income tied to an outcome of how many games in which he pitches.

To this point of the season, he has been on key.

Already, Wainwright has earned $2.5 million extra for passing the 15-start plateau. At 17, he seems headed for 30, which would net him an additional $5.5 million, running him up to $10 million by the end of the season.

Start 17, on Sunday, was as good as the best Wainwright has had this season. On a hot day, Wainwright (6-7) cooled the Arizona Diamondbacks, blanking them on four singles and a walk in an efficient seven-inning, seven-strikeout outing as the Cardinals took the series with a 5-2 victory at Busch Stadium.

Wainwright said the contract he has is one he proposed.

“I wrote down on a napkin what I thought was fair and sent it to my agent and he made a couple of corrections and we sent it to the Cardinals and they just about agreed to what I put on there,” he said. “What I have done the last couple of years doesn’t warrant a big contract like I’ve been pitching for. So I expect to go out and pitch well and earn that anyways.

“You get what you earn. If you haven’t already figured it out, I like motivational things.”

His record might be better than it is, but the Cardinals scored just five runs for Wainwright in his previous five starts, only one of which he had won.

“Nothing surprises me, ever, about Adam Wainwright,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “Adam’s a high-expectation (guy), just like our club. He’s exactly what we want in that he’s always striving for more. So, if we’re doing well, we want to be even better. Adam’s a great representation of that. That’s his lion heart and his warrior mentality. He’s pitched well, but that’s not good enough. He wants to be — and is — elite. That’s his bar. That’s our bar, as well.”

Wainwright, whose earned-run average dipped to 3.99, was slated to start on Friday but was held back a couple of days because of back spasms.

“I knew it wasn’t serious,” he said. “And I knew if we waited a couple of days and listened to the training staff that we were going to be in real good shape. So it was kind of a no-brainer.”

But, echoing his manager, Wainwright said, “I’ve got to not be satisfied and keep going. There’s still some things that I can do better. (But) I’m throwing the ball like I expect to throw the ball.”

Wainwright’s 89 strikeouts this season are second on the club to Jack Flaherty’s 102.

“That doesn’t surprise me either,” Shildt said. “(Wainwright) is a guy that knows how to pitch. He always has outstanding preparation and he’s got execution to back it. So he knows what to throw, when to throw it, where to throw it.”

After a previous combined total of 734 career starts, Wainwright and 35-year-old Zack Greinke had met just twice, with Greinke winning both — 6-0 and 3-2 with Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively, with Greinke driving in a key run in the second game with a single off Wainwright.

“Curveball over short,” Wainwright recalled.

“It made it a little personal between me and him today,” Wainwright added. “Zack’s such a great pitcher. I wanted to get him on the list. I’m on his list. ”

Wainwright won out on the mound — and at the plate.

Greinke (10-4) walked Wainwright to open the third and this would prove costly. Matt Carpenter lined to shortstop Nick Ahmed but, in his haste to try to double off Wainwright at first, Ahmed threw the ball over first baseman Christian Walker’s head and out of play. Wainwright, after tagging, was allowed to stroll to third.

With the infield in, Yairo Munoz blooped a hit just over the glove of fast retreating second baseman Ildemaro Vargas, a former Cardinals farmhand, and Wainwright trotted home.

Paul Goldschmidt, who had hit several balls hard both foul and fair during the series against his long-time team, walloped a 416-foot homer just fair to left and it was 4-0.

The homer was the 17th for Goldschmidt, who had been only four for 23 (.174) against Greinke. But, on Sunday, Goldschmidt blooped a single off a Greinke changeup in the first and scored on Tyler O’Neill’s double, then took another changeup over the left-field wall.

“The results were better — to get a home run and another hit,” Goldschmidt said. “But . . . I have to do it the whole rest of the second half. You can’t just do it one game. I think that’s the key for us as a team, show up and do it every day. We’ve played good for a day or a series but to win the division or get in the playoffs as a wild card, we’re going to have to do it basically every game through the end of the year.”

Some of the Cardinals were in a playful mood after the game, including Wainwright — who said he wasn’t all that pleased with drawing that walk.

“Bad planning. Poor planning,” he joked. “Too hot to walk. Home run or nothing should have been the play. Hitting a homer on the first pitch would have been better planning.”

Rookie Andrew Knizner, making his third big-league start — all with Wainwright — said, “How many pitches did he have (97)? I thought he had another 30 in the tank. He probably could have done it. He was saying the other day, ‘It would be a nice time for the first complete game of the season.’

“We tried to get there. I think we could have done it, but the

heat . . . man it was hot out there.”

The rookie knows how good he has it in catching Wainwright.

“What’s so good is setting up the game plan,” Knizner said. “Watching the hitters in the dugout (Saturday), talking about it. Watching on film, talking about it. Talking about it today before the game. We’ve got it pretty much down pat. We know when to make adjustments in the game. We ride. And get outs.”

Wainwright smiled said, “I was just warming up. He caught me for 126 earlier this year, right? Also, I know ‘Shildty’ is not going to let me finish that game. In that heat, seven (innings) are nine.”

Knizner has teamed with Wainwright 253 times fewer than injured star Yadier Molina. But Wainwright said, “We’re great together. I told Yadi, ‘Take a couple of weeks off, man. I’ve got my own personal catcher here.’”

Then, spying Matt Wieters, the regular catcher across the room, Wainwright cracked, “Wieters is offended by that.”

Wieters, playing along, responded, “I’m hugely offended by that.”

As starting pitchers go, Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright may have taken the biggest pay cut in history _ from $19.5 million last year at the end of a five-year deal to a $2 million base this year. This has forced Wainwright essentially to sing for his supper, with incremental additions to his income tied to an outcome of how many games he pitches.

To this point of the season, he has been on key.

Already, Wainwright has earned $2.5 million extra for passing the 15-start plateau. At 17, he seems headed for 30, which would net him an additional $5.5 million, running him up to $10 million by the end of the season.

Start 17 Sunday was as good as the best Wainwright has had this season. On a hot day, Wainwright (6-7) cooled off the Arizona Diamondbacks, blanking them on four singles and a walk in an efficient seven-inning, seven-strikeout outing as the Cardinals took the series with a 5-2 victory at Busch Stadium.

Wainwright said the deal he has is one he proposed. “I wrote down on a napkin what I thought was fair and sent it to my agent and he made a couple of corrections and we sent it to the Cardinals and they just about agreed to what I put on there,” he said.

“What I have done the last couple of years doesn’t warrant a big contract like I’ve been pitching for. So I expect to go out and pitch well and earn that anyways.

“You get what you earn. If you haven’t already figured it out, I like motivational things.”

His record might be better than it is, but the Cardinals had scored just five runs for Wainwright in his previous five starts, only one of which he had won.

“Nothing surprises me, ever, about Adam Wainwright,” said manager Mike Shildt.

“Adam’s a high expectation (guy), just like our club. He’s exactly what we want in that he’s always striving for more. So, if we’re doing well, we want to be even better. Adam’s a great representation of that. That’s his lion heart and his warrior mentality. He’s pitched well, but that’s not good enough. He wants to be _ and is elite. That’s his bar. That’s our bar, as well.”

Wainwright, whose earned run average dipped to 3.99, was slated to start on Friday but was held back a couple of days because of back spasms.

“I knew it wasn’t serious,” he said. “And I knew if we waited a couple of days and listened to the training staff that we were going to be in real good shape. So it was kind of a no-brainer.”

But, echoing his manager, Wainwright said, “I’ve got to not be satisfied and keep going. There’s still some things that I can do better. (But) I’m throwing the ball like I expect to throw the ball.”

Wainwright, at 89 strikeouts for the season, is second on the club to Jack Flaherty, who has 102.

“That doesn’t surprise me either,” Shildt said. “(Wainwright) is a guy that knows how to pitch. He always has outstanding preparation and he’s got execution to back it _ so he knows what to throw, when to throw it, where to throw it.”

After a combined total of 734 career starts, Wainwright and 35-year-old Zack Greinke had met just twice, with Greinke winning both, 6-0 and 3-2 with Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively, with Greinke driving in a key run in the second game with a single off Wainwright.

“Curveball over short,” Wainwright recalled.

“It made it a little personal between me and him today,” said Wainwright. “Zack’s such a great pitcher. I wanted to get him on the list. I’m on his list. ”

Wainwright won out on the mound _ and at the plate.

Greinke (10-4) walked Wainwright to open the third and this would prove costly. Matt Carpenter lined to shortstop Nick Ahmed but, in his haste to try to double off Wainwright at first, Ahmed threw the ball over first baseman Christian Walker’s head and out of play and Wainwright, after tagging, was allowed to stroll to third.

With the infield in, Yairo Munoz blooped a hit just over the glove of fast retreating second baseman Ildemaro Vargas, a former Cardinals farmhand, and Wainwright trotted home.

Paul Goldschmidt, who had hit several balls hard both foul and fair during the series against his long-time team, walloped a 416-foot homer just fair to left and it was 4-0.

The homer was the 17{sup}th{/sup} for Goldschmidt, who had been only four for 23 (.174) against Greinke. But, on Sunday, Goldschmidt blooped a single off a Greinke changeup in the first and scored on Tyler O’Neill’s double and took another changeup over the left-field wall.

“The results were better _ to get a home run and another hit,” Goldschmidt said. “But. . . I have to do it the whole rest of the second half. You can’t just do it one game. I think that’s the key for us as a team, show up and do it every day. We’ve played good for a day or a series but to win the division or get in the playoffs as a wild card, we’re going to have to do it basically every game through the end of the year.”

Wainwright wasn’t all that pleased with the walk. “Bad planning. Poor planning,” joked Wainwright. “Too hot to walk. “Home run or nothing should have been the play. Hitting a homer on the first pitch would have been better planning.”

Rookie Andrew Knizner, making his third big-league start _all with Wainwright _ said, “How many pitches did he have (97)? I thought he had another 30 in the tank. He probably could have done it. He was saying the other day, ‘It would be a nice time for the first complete game of the season.’

“We tried to get there. I think we could have done it, but the

heat. . . man it was hot out there. It was freakin’ hot.”

The rookie knows how good he has it in catching Wainwright.

“What’s so good is setting up the game plan,” said Knizner. “Watching the hitters in the dugout (Saturday), talking about it. Watching on film, talking about it. Talking about it today before the game. We’ve got it pretty much down pat. We know when to make adjustments in the game. We ride. And get outs,” Knizner said.

Wainwright smiled said, “I was just warming up. He caught me for 126 earlier this year, right? Also, I know Shildty is not going to let me finish that game. In that heat, seven (innings) are nine.”

Knizner has teamed with Wainwright 253 times fewer than injured star Yadier Molina. But Wainwright said, “We’re great together. I told Yadi, ‘Take a couple of weeks off, man. I’ve got my own personal catcher here.’”

Then, spying Matt Wieters, the regular catcher across the room, Wainwright cracked, “Wieters is offended by that.”

Wieters, playing along, responded, “I’m hugely offended by that.”

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Rick Hummel is a Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.