Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. All Monday Night Football games should start as early as last night’s Panthers-Saints matchup.
In today’s SI:AM:
Wainwright turns back the clock
Nobody really cares about pitcher wins anymore, but try telling that to Adam Wainwright.
With a vintage performance last night in St. Louis, Wainwright became the fifth active pitcher to record 200 wins in his career. And he did it in the nick of time.
Wainwright announced last October that 2023 would be his final season in the majors. He had just turned 41, but he was coming off a very solid season in which he had made 32 starts and posted a 3.71 ERA (better than league average). He was also sitting on 195 career wins, and coming back would allow him to chase a milestone few pitchers have reached.
Wainwright’s pursuit of 200 wins started promisingly enough. After returning from a groin injury in May, he picked up the victory in two of his first four starts. Then, following three solid but winless starts, he got another win June 17 against the Mets.
That’s when the wheels fell off.
Wainwright’s next three starts were abysmal. He didn’t make it out of the fourth inning in any of them and allowed 17 runs. He was then placed on the injured list with a shoulder strain, but his fortunes didn’t improve after returning from a three-week stint on the IL. In eight starts between July 24 and Sept. 7, Wainwright had an 8.92 ERA. Needless to say, he was stuck on 198 career wins, and with the end of his final season fast approaching, it was fair to wonder whether he was going to reach 200. It had been nearly three months since his last victory.
But Wainwright picked up the win last Tuesday in Baltimore to notch No. 199, setting up a potential storybook night at home in St. Louis—and Wainwright delivered. He had his best start of the season, pitching seven scoreless innings and allowing just four hits. Willson Contreras’s solo homer in the fourth provided the necessary run support, and relievers John King and Ryan Helsley pitched scoreless innings to close it out.
After such a difficult season, picking up the milestone victory with a strong performance meant a lot to Wainwright.
“For at least a night, I was a real pitcher out there—the guy I want to be,” Wainwright told reporters. “Seven innings shutout. Couple of hits. Got through a couple of tough ABs out there. Made adjustments. Worked in and out, up and down, and that’s the thing. For tonight, I was me.”
Wainwright is the third pitcher in Cardinals history to reach 200 wins (after Jesse Haines and Bob Gibson) and the fifth active pitcher to reach the milestone (joining Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke). It’s not as hallowed a number as 300 wins, but reaching 200 is still a remarkable achievement. Only 80 pitchers in the Live Ball era have recorded 200 wins, and only 15 of them began their careers after 1990. Winning 200 games, while not a great indicator of a pitcher’s value from an analytical perspective, is still evidence of a consistent, durable career.
This surely hasn’t been the sort of final season Wainwright envisioned when he came back. He’s struggled mightily, and the Cardinals are on pace for their worst finish in nearly 30 years. But his return to form last night allowed him to join an exclusive club. It might have also improved his chances of joining the most exclusive club of all: the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The best of Sports Illustrated
- The top two teams in Conor Orr’s NFL power rankings are ones that are cruising thanks to their dominant defenses.
- Browns running back Nick Chubb is expected to miss the rest of the season after injuring his knee last night.
- With Chubb sidelined, the Browns are going to have to rely even more heavily on a diminished Deshaun Watson, Gilberto Manzano writes.
- Watson pushed a referee during last night’s game against the Steelers but was not penalized.
- After their loss to the Saints, Matt Verderame argues the Panthers need to take the training wheels off Bryce Young.
- Pat Forde took a look at the 18 undefeated FBS teams that are still unranked to determine whether any of them are worth paying attention to.
- Phil Mickelson opened up about his gambling addiction in a lengthy social media post.
The top five...
… things I saw last night:
5. T.J. Watt’s first career touchdown.
4. The Steelers’ pick-six on the first play of the game.
3. George Pickens’s run after the catch on a 71-yard touchdown.
2. Chris Olave’s one-handed catch while falling to the ground.
1. Kyle Schwarber’s 483-foot home run.
Which country snapped the United States national softball team’s 112-game winning streak in an 11-inning thriller at the Sydney Olympics on this day in 2000?
Yesterday’s SIQ: Before Garrett Crochet in 2020, who was the last player to make his MLB debut before playing in the minor leagues?
- David Price
- Chris Sale
- Brandon Finnegan
- Mike Leake
Answer: Mike Leake. This fun fact comes with a couple of asterisks, though.
First of all, the White Sox took Crochet with the 11th pick in the 2020 draft. With minor league seasons canceled that year due to the pandemic, Crochet was sent to Chicago’s alternate site to train with the taxi squad. In any normal season, he would have spent those couple of months in the minors before the team decided he was worthy of a September call-up, just like players such as David Price and Chris Sale did before making their MLB debuts the same year they got drafted.
The circumstances of Leake’s debut are also worth noting. He did not pitch in the minor leagues after being selected eighth in the 2009 draft by the Reds, but he did make six appearances in the Arizona Fall League that year before making Cincinnati’s Opening Day rotation at the start of the ’10 season. The AFL isn’t an official league (it’s more like a showcase for the game’s top prospects), so Leake is considered to have skipped the minors and gone straight to the majors.