Adam Wainwright has closed for a World Series winner. He’s still looking to make it back to the Fall Classic as a starter.
Demonstrating even better control of his curveball than usual, Wainwright kicked off the Cardinals’ latest postseason run on a strong note Thursday, allowing three hits over seven innings and striking out nine in an 8-1 win over the Pirates. He improved to 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 39 2/3 postseason innings. His K/BB ratio is an exceptional 49/6.
Wainwright has had some good luck and some bad in the postseason. Of course, he was exceptional in the closer’s role for the 2006 champs, pitching 9 2/3 scoreless innings and picking up four saves. However, in his lone start in 2009, he was denied a win matched up with the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw after allowing one run in eight innings (Ryan Franklin blew the save). In 2012, he was bailed out after giving up six runs in 2 2/3 innings in a decisive Game 5 against the Nationals, as the Cardinals came back and won. They went on to lose to the Giants in the LCS despite a win from Wainwright in his only start.
Wainwright finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak, leaving him 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA. Thanks to Kershaw, he’ll again be denied a Cy Young Award — he is looking at a top three finish for the third time — but he might have the chance to get the better of the Dodgers ace later this month.
For the third consecutive season, the Astros are AL West champions. The ‘stros clinched the division on Sunday afternoon with a convincing 13-5 win over the Angels. They were backed by three homers from leadoff man George Springer and individual homers from Alex Bregman and Aledmys Díaz.
Springer has the 22nd three-homer game in baseball this season. He’s the first Astro to hit three homers in a game since Yordan Álvarez last month, on August 10.
Justin Verlander lasted five innings in Sunday’s start, yielding two runs on six hits and a pair of walks with five strikeouts. The right-hander is arguably the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award, now 20-6 with a 2.53 ERA and a 288/42 K/BB ratio in 217 innings on the year. Verlander is 12 strikeouts shy of the 300-strikeout milestone and six strikeouts short of 3,000 for his career. If the Astros stay on schedule, Verlander would pitch the second-to-last game of the regular season against the Angels.
Sunday’s win marked No. 102 on the season for the Astros. The franchise record is 103 wins set last year. With six games remaining, it seems likely the Astros will set a new record.
The Astros and Yankees both won on Sunday, meaning the Astros remain a half-game ahead in the race for home field advantage. The No. 1 seed will also have the privilege of playing the Wild Card winner, which is down to the Athletics, Rays, and Indians.