ST. LOUIS – A quick exit from the postseason marks the end of an era for two St. Louis Cardinals legends, but could it mean a new chapter for another one?
Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina played their final games as MLB ballplayers Saturday, a 2-0 Wild Card Series loss to eliminate the Cardinals from the 2022 postseason sweepstakes. Pujols and Molina made it known well before the season that this year would be their last go-around. A longtime teammate super close to the duo did not.
Adam Wainwright just completed his 17th MLB season and seventh as a full-time teammate of Pujols and Molina. Wainwright, now 41 years old, finished with a respectable 3.71 earned run average, 11 wins and 143 strikeouts over 191.2 innings pitched. He proved durable for most of the 2022 campaign and even broke a baseball record with Molina in mid-September for most starts as a MLB battery.
After that milestone, the tides turned quickly on Wainwright. He allowed 14 runs over 13.2 innings in his final three tuneups of the regular season, ultimately missing out on a chance to start a postseason game.
St. Louis dropped the first two and only games in the best-of-three Wild Card Series. While Wainwright was rostered for the series, he never took the mound for it.
“I’ll tell you this, I don’t like pitching in a playoff series,” said Wainwright candidly after Saturday’s season-ending loss. “You could take that one or two ways. You can take that as, ‘It’s been a good run,’ or you could take that as motivation to never let that happen again.”
Wainwright noted it would’ve been exciting to close out a Wild Card Series had the Cardinals made it to that point. He wrapped up a division series, league championship series and World Series in 2006.
Miles Mikolas, who took the mound in the ultimate elimination game, shared a special message to Wainwright right after the game.
“I already told him, ‘I’ll see you in spring!,’ said Mikolas. “Hopefully it’s not as a coach. He’s a guy that is as irreplaceable as Yadi and Albert. If he’s got coming back on his mind, he’s going to be 100% ready. If that’s the choice that he makes, I could really use another year of Waino.”
Wainwright, who opened his availability to media Saturday praising his longtime battery mate Molina, was later asked about how it might feel not pitching to him next season.
“I don’t think about that kind of stuff,” said Wainwright. “If it happens, it’ll never be the same. If it doesn’t happen, I had the greatest catcher ever catch me the whole time.”
The two-time Cy Young runner-up was then asked what his future might look like next spring.
“We’ll see. We’ll see what happens. We should know pretty soon if something happens. If not, then it’s been a good run. Thanks, St. Louis.”
Wainwright is third in St. Louis Cardinals’ history with 195 wins, fourth in games started (386) and second in strikeouts (2,147) with a 3.38 career ERA. He picked up four wins and four saves with a 2.83 ERA and 123 strikeouts over nine years of postseason action.
If Wainwright does not retire or re-sign with the Cardinals, he will become a free agent. He has returned to the Cardinals on one-year contracts in each of the past four seasons.