BOSTON — Adam Wainwright helped the St. Louis Cardinals win the 2006 World Series, perhaps making their most important pitch of the season.
In Game 7 of the NL championship series, he got Carlos Beltran to look at a curveball for strike three with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, closing the Cardinals’ 3-1 win over the New York Mets.
Now, Beltran is in the World Series for the first time. And Wainwright, his teammate, is set to start Game 1 for the Cardinals on Wednesday night against Boston.
That pitch from the past? It’s history.
“We don’t joke about it. I don’t even bring that up,” Wainwright said Tuesday.
“But one thing that was really cool after we won the other day in St. Louis, Carlos’ wife came up to me and said, ‘Can I take a picture of you and Carlos?’ And I said, yes,” he said. “And she said, ‘Back then it wasn’t in the Lord’s plan and now it is.’ I’m getting chill bumps sharing that with you.”
The Cardinals made one switch in their postseason roster for the World Series, adding Allen Craig and dropping outfielder Adron Chambers. The Red Sox will stay with the same 25 they used in the AL championship series.
Craig hasn’t played since Sept. 4 because of a sprained left foot, but has been working his way back. The first baseman was the Cardinals’ cleanup man for most of the season and hit a major league-leading .454 with runners in scoring position before getting hurt.
Craig is set to be the Cardinals’ designated hitter in Game 1 Wednesday night against Jon Lester and in Game 2 against John Lackey.
“Allen ended up passing his last test today,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He went out and ran the bases and has hit live. We’re anxious to have him back.”
“Right now we feel comfortable with Allen as a DH. Once we get back to St. Louis we’ll reevaluate, but we anticipate him being able to pinch-hit. But if he continues to progress and things look differently, we could make that change. But right now we’re pretty happy with Matt Adams at first base,” he said.
Then and now
Jon Lester starts Game 1, six years after his win finished off Boston’s sweep of the Colorado Rockies. That signature win at Coors Field came less than a year after doctors pronounced him cancer-free from anaplastic large cell lymphoma.
The Red Sox lefty reflected Tuesday on the difference between that 2007 outing and his upcoming start.
“I think completely, you know, at different ends for me. Like you said, different circumstances at the time,” he said. “I mean, I just remember nerves. I remember just the anxiety of trying to just get to the field and calm down a little bit. Different point in my career, I think, too.”
“Obviously, tomorrow there will still be nerves, there will still be all that to be expected. But I think I know who I am a little bit more as a pitcher and what to expect from myself and what to expect from the crowd and all the different things that go along with getting a start in the World Series,” he said.
Lester also realizes his medical comeback might serve as an inspiration.
“If that story gets out tomorrow and that helps somebody in a hospital room or helps somebody that’s struggling with their treatment or whatever it is, great. That’s kind of what we try to do in our foundation, as well, and spread the word of cancer awareness,” he said.
“It’s a big honor to take that stage with that next to my name. And like I said, hopefully I can help somebody that’s struggling with it a little bit,” he said.
He did what?
As the Cardinals took batting practice, Fox TV announcer Tim McCarver stood near the stands and recalled catching for St. Louis in the 1967 World Series at Fenway Park. Something he saw Carl Yastrzemski do after Game 1 still sticks with him.
Following the Cardinals’ 2-1 win, about a dozen players and their wives gathered near the dugout, ready for the late afternoon bus trip back to the hotel.
“Yaz had gone 0 for 4 against Bob Gibson. As we’re waiting there, here comes the grounds crew, rolling the batting cage back into place. And then here comes Yaz, the Triple Crown winner, back onto the field for extra batting,” McCarver said.
“We were dumbfounded. We stood there watching him. I mean, he’d just played game No. 163. We’d never seen that,” he said. “You never saw that then, you’d never see that now.”
McCarver also remembered how Yaz did in Game 2 the next day: Two home runs and a single, with four RBIs in Boston’s 5-0 win.