Adam Wainwright wins elusive No. 200: ‘One of the most fun games I’ve ever pitched’

Adam Wainwright wins elusive No. 200: ‘One of the most fun games I’ve ever pitched’
By Katie Woo
Sep. 19, 2023

ST. LOUIS — One of baseball’s fiercest competitors and respected players in the last two decades, Adam Wainwright isn’t always the easiest pitcher to remove from a game.

He will lobby for one more hitter and beg for one more inning, his usual soft and smiling face hardening as serious negotiations take place. He can be quite persuasive — he knows this and uses it to his advantage — so much so that manager Oli Marmol has had to adapt a strategy. When it comes time to remove Wainwright from a game midway through an inning, Marmol will point to the bullpen immediately after leaving the dugout, signaling a pitching change and ensuring that Wainwright will not be able to plead his case to stay. If he did not do this, the likelihood that Wainwright could talk him into more chances once the two met at the mound would be high.


But when the second-year skipper emerged from the home dugout with one out in the top of the seventh Monday night, he didn’t bother glancing at the bullpen, where Matthew Liberatore was hurriedly warming up. Boos rang throughout Busch Stadium as he walked across the diamond to the mound, yet he kept his eyes locked on the 6-foot-7-inch presence waiting for him at the top.

Sitting on 199 career wins, Wainwright had hurled six innings of shutout ball but had not recorded seven innings in a start all season. The St. Louis Cardinals were clinging to a 1-0 lead over the Brewers, and Milwaukee was threatening with one out and a runner on second. Power-hitting lefty Rowdy Tellez was due up, with veteran Josh Donaldson on deck. The matchup wasn’t favorable for the Cardinals.

It didn’t matter. There was only one pitcher who was going to finish that frame. Marmol just wanted to make sure of it.

“You want this batter?” Marmol asked.

“I think you should give it to me,” Wainwright deadpanned.

“You got the rest of the inning,” Marmol replied.



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That he did. Wainwright induced two fly balls, both on his patented curveball, stranding the tying run at third base to end the top of the seventh. Two innings later, both teams were standing atop their respective dugouts, delivering a standing ovation to one of the game’s most cherished pitchers. Thanks to a fourth-inning solo shot from Willson Contreras and a four-out save from closer Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals held on to a 1-0 victory.

And Wainwright — after 18 professional seasons (all with St. Louis), three All-Star selections, two Gold Gloves and a World Series championship — had recorded his 200th career win.

“That’s one of the most fun games I’ve ever pitched in my whole life,” he beamed.

The woes of Wainwright’s final season have been well-documented. With a loss last Friday, the Cardinals secured their first losing season since 2007 — and their first since Wainwright joined the rotation. In his final year, Wainwright has pitched through two stints on the injured list and at one point his ERA ballooned above 8.00, the highest mark of a starting pitcher in baseball. He stalled through 11 starts between wins over the summer, putting his quest for 200 in serious jeopardy.


Age caught up to him. He pitched hurt for most of the season, no matter how hard he tried to trick his mind into thinking otherwise. There were questions if he’d win another game, let alone reach his coveted milestone, or if he’d remain in the rotation at all. But on Monday night, he was timeless.

Wainwright spun a season-high seven scoreless innings, scattering four hits and two walks while striking out three. He threw 93 pitches — 58 for strikes — and not a single one of them harder than 88 mph.

A performance for the history books by the face of the franchise, and a vintage one at that.

“For at least a night, I was a real pitcher out there,” Wainwright said. “The guy I want to be. Seven innings, shutout, a couple of hits. Got through a couple of tough at-bats out there and made adjustments, worked in and out, up and down.

“For tonight, I was me.”

Wainwright became the 38th pitcher in National League history to reach 200 career wins and the fifth active pitcher to do so, joining Justin VerlanderZack GreinkeMax Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw. He referred to the night as a “top-three moment ever, baseball-wise.” He soaked in every moment with his home crowd, calling the chance to record win No. 200 at Busch Stadium “incredibly special.”

“I had an idea coming to the park today that I was going to let everything I had, I was going to lay it all out here, because I really wanted it to happen here,” Wainwright said. “The crowd was unbelievable tonight. I felt them cheering on every pitch I made, every big strikeout, we had a couple of double plays and the crowd was just going crazy. They were on their feet all night and I felt that.”

He worked in tandem with Contreras, crediting the catcher not only for his timely offense but for his command of the game behind the plate. His eyes glistened when reflecting on the support he felt from his teammates, coaches and training staff. Wainwright was not in the dugout when Tommy Edman secured the final out of the game — a popout to second base. Instead, he was inside the clubhouse with head trainer Adam Olsen and performance specialist Jason Shutt. As soon as the third out was made, he hugged both — a fitting tribute as both men were instrumental in restoring Wainwright’s health, time and time again.

Adam Wainwright hugs his son, Caleb, while addressing the media. (Jeff Curry/USA Today)

He started to become emotional as he made his way through the tunnel and up the stairs back to the dugout where a roaring crowd awaited. Celebratory music rang from the Busch Stadium speakers and fireworks lit up the skyline as the scoreboard flashed “200 wins, No. 50, Adam Wainwright.” Players delivered standing ovations.


And Wainwright, not one to be at a loss for words, was suddenly overcome with tears.

“Crying like a baby,” he laughed. “You know, like gasping for air crying. I hadn’t done that in a long time. But what a cool thing. To be able to lay it out there on the mound pitching, and then just be real out there and be transparent. Let everybody into my heart right in that moment. That was special.”

Though his final season strayed vastly off course, it allowed Wainwright to truly appreciate the magnitude of his accomplishment.

“Having to work as hard as I had to work for it made me savor it that much more,” he said. “I am somewhat proud of the fact that it’s hard to keep this guy down. I’m proud every time I got knocked down I got back up, and I got knocked down a bunch. I had to get back up a bunch. But you know what I had? I had an incredible family behind me. I had incredible teammates and coaching staff behind me, that lifted me up and encouraged me the whole time. I never let me get down on myself.

“You know what that does for your mind? That’s an incredibly powerful thing. And there’s an incredible group of guys in that clubhouse that helped me along the way.”

For Wainwright, there is no shortage of sentimental scenes from Monday, but there is one moment that he’ll never forget, a decision that will stay with him long after his career has come to a close.

“When Oli left me in the game there in the seventh, him coming out and leaving me in and just believing in me in that moment? I’ll remember that forever,” he said.

But Wainwright was never coming out of that inning. It was clear from Marmol’s initial first steps out of the dugout, and it was confirmed by him later in the night. Monday’s game was always going to be Wainwright’s to win.


And for the 200th time, he did exactly that.

(Top photo of Adam Wainwright: Jeff Curry / USA Today)

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Katie Woo

Katie Woo is a staff writer for The Athletic covering the St. Louis Cardinals. Prior to joining The Athletic, Katie spent two years covering the minor leagues as an editorial producer for and spent the 2018 MLB season covering the San Diego Padres as an associate reporter for She is a graduate of Arizona State University and originates from Northern California. Follow Katie on Twitter @katiejwoo