Adam Wainwright opens his postseason with nine-K gem

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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.