Adam Wainwright gets his shot at redemption in Game 5

The St. Louis Cardinals will partake in the glorious, heart-pounding, frustrating-yet-exhilarating experience that is Game 5 of the National League Division Series for the third year in a row. They won both of those two previous games, but one player in particular most certainly hopes the game is more similar to 2011 than 2012 — Adam Wainwright.

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The Cardinals 2011 ace, Chris Carpenter, pitched a complete-game shutout in a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in what was one of the best games in recent memory, mostly because of Carpenter’s brilliant performance that narrowly beat his friend, Phillies ace Roy Halladay.

The Cardinals sent Wainwright, their 2012 ace, to the mound in the next year’s Game 5 against the Washington Nationals, and while the end of the game was equally exciting, the first three innings were horrendous as Wainwright gave up six runs in the first three innings and dropped the Cardinals into a 6-0 hole that, although created the necessary disadvantage to allow for a miraculous comeback and 9-7 win, sent Wainwright to the dugout in disgust after 2.1 innings, his shortest outing of the season.

But Wainwright will get his chance to lead the Cardinals into the National League Championship Series instead of praying his teammates rescue the game from disaster when the Cardinals face the Pittsburgh Pirates in the deciding game of their 2013 division series.

Wainwright has a few advantages on his side this year he did not at this time a year ago. For one, he’ll be pitching at Busch Stadium, where he is 12-5 with a 2.45 earned-run average in 2013 and 53-32 with a 2.67 ERA in his seven-year career.

He is not a bad pitcher on the road. He has a 7-4 record with 3.69 ERA away from Busch Stadium this season and 46-25 on the road in his career, but his ERA is 3.59 in 119 appearances in road games, including 88 starts.

Those are still above-average numbers, but given the choice the Cardinals should prefer to have him at home.

Thanks to a wonderful start from rookie Michael Wacha in Game 4 Thursday that led to a 2-1 win, the Cardinals will get the chance Wednesday to face Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole, who had an excellent Game 2 start at Busch Stadium when he held the Cardinals to one run through six innings Friday in a 7-1 Pittsburgh win.

All of the ingredients are in place for another thrilling Game 5 that could go down as another of the Cardinals’ classic postseason games. Wainwright was as dominant in Game 1 as Cole was in Game 2, and now they will have a trip to the NLCS and the right to face the Los Angeles Dodgers on the line.

The Cardinals have shown time and again in recent years they can handle the pressure of these types of win-or-go-home games. They are 7-1 in their last eight elimination games and won their latest Thursday amid a ridiculously loud crowd at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

The Cardinals will have their own fans in attendance Wednesday and their ace pitcher on the mound at the place where he pitches best.

Wainwright’s teammates saved him from an early postseason exit filled with despair 12 months ago. Now it’s time for him to repay the favor.

Author: Jacob Mayer

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