But there can only be a mixture of surprise and dismay when looking at the statistics for the 2013 World Series and seeing that Wainwright has a record of 0-2. He deserves better, but there it is.
There will be times when even extraordinarily good will not be enough. Monday night was such a time for Wainwright and thus, the Cardinals.
The ace of the staff, the leader of the staff, was called upon to pitch Game 5 of the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox. Wainwright produced a line that was better than the quality start standard. He pitched very well. He pitched well enough to win the vast majority of games.
But Wainwright did not win, because Boston starter Jon Lester was even better. The Cards lost, 3-1, and now trail in the Series, three games to two.
And the unthinkable has occurred with Wainwright, the solid foundation around which a large part of this team was built. He is 0-2 in the World Series. Twice Wainwright has faced Lester. Twice he has lost.
The first start, in the Series opener, was an aberration for Wainwright. His delivery was out of whack and thus his command was nowhere near as sharp as it typically is. Wainwright gave up five runs, three of them earned, in five innings and he was not himself.
|4. (tie)||Adam Wainwright||Red Sox||10/28/2013||10|
|4. (tie)||Bob Gibson||Tigers||10/6/1968||10|
|4. (tie)||Bob Gibson||Red Sox||10/12/1967||10|
|4. (tie)||Bob Gibson||Red Sox||10/4/1967||10|
|4. (tie)||Pete Alexander||Yankees||10/3/1926||10|
|9. (tie)||Jeff Weaver||Tigers||10/27/2006||9|
|9. (tie)||Bob Gibson||Yankees||10/15/1964||9|
|9. (tie)||Bob Gibson||Yankees||10/8/1964||9|
|9. (tie)||Paul Derringer||A's||10/1/1931||9|
This time, in Game 5, he was the real Wainwright. And still, that wasn't enough.
Three runs over seven innings. Eight hits, but only one walk allowed. Ten strikeouts. This was a fine game against the offense that led the Major Leagues in runs scored during the regular season. But it wasn't enough.
Wainwright was touched in just two innings by the Red Sox. He gave up back-to-back doubles to Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz in the first. With first base open, why pitch to Ortiz, the hottest hitter on the planet?
"I don't like walking anybody," Wainwright said. "They had a guy on second already. [Ortiz] is out-of-his-mind hot right now. That was my call before the game. I said, 'I'm not pitching around Ortiz. I'm going to get him out.' He hit a good pitch, made a good swing.
"As hot as he is, I believe in my mind that I can get anybody out, and I still believe that," Wainwright explained. "[In Game 4], we pitched around him and the guy behind him [Gomes] burned us. In my mind, what we have to do is don't compound the innings, and in the first inning, the last thing I wanted to do there was put several ducks on the pond. He made a good swing on a good pitch, and you tip your hat and go on from there."
The seventh inning arrived with a 1-1 tie. Wainwright got an inning-opening strikeout, then gave up a bouncer up the middle for a single by Xander Bogaerts. A walk to light-hitting Stephen Drew didn't help. Then David Ross doubled, a hit that put Boston ahead for good. A single by Jacoby Ellsbury later added another run.
"More than anything, walking Drew there, that really hurt," Wainwright said. "That set the inning up for them. I would have liked to attack more there, but I just didn't get it done.
"If you look at the pitch that Bogaerts hit, it was down and away, and he hit it up the middle. Then the pitch that Ross hit was the first curveball I'd thrown him in three at-bats. It's a pitch I thought I had him set up for. I didn't quite throw it where I wanted to, but it was down. [Yadier Molina] is going to catch that ball just off the clay. I thought I had him set up for that pitch, and he made a good swing.
"It was a game of inches tonight. Ross' ball is fair by inches. There were a lot of different things that could have happened. But they didn't happen. The Boston Red Sox won, and their pitcher, Jon Lester, did a great job."
By every standard other than the bottom-line result, this was a bounce-back game for Wainwright. He had dominated the National League Division Series victory over Pittsburgh, winning twice, giving up two runs in 16 innings and pitching a complete game in the decisive Game 5. Wainwright had lost a game in the NL Championship Series against Los Angeles but had still pitched very well. After the tough World Series opener, he came back into form in Game 5.
"After [Game 1], I knew I could pitch much better than that," Wainwright said. "My delivery was horrible. I made some great adjustments and I was very confident I was going to go out and pitch a good game. To be honest about it, I executed my plan all night, right there until the end of the seventh inning."
But as Wainwright noted, that improvement didn't make this a victory.
"It's never easy," he said. "I take some positive thoughts out of that game knowing I was able to make some adjustments, knowing I was able to make some quality pitches. But a loss is a loss. The fact of the matter is we lost two games at home. Now we've got to go into Boston and do the same thing they did to us. We've got to win two games there.
"I don't live my life with regret and looking back and all that kind of stuff. I know I could have made some pitches there to get our team out of the game. But we're not out of it. If this was Game 7 and I lost, this would be a lot harder to take. But I fully believe that our team can go into Boston and win two games."
That could happen. The Cardinals could do that. But part of the original recipe for success in this World Series was Wainwright winning a game or two. Nobody's blaming Wainwright. Nobody's knocking Wainwright. He is one of the main reasons the Cards have come this far. But the Redbirds will now need to find those two victories somewhere else.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.