Wainwright was pulled from Friday night's 12-6 loss in the seventh inning with runners at first and second and no outs with the Cardinals leading, 6-1. A soldout crowd gave Wainwright a standing ovation as he exited the mound. But they wanted more.
The fans continued to stand and cheer during the pitching change as Wainwright's teammates urged the righty to get back out there. So Wainwright finally obliged, coming to the top step of the home dugout to give the fans a wave.
"That was really special," Wainwright said. "I've always kind of looked at guys who were getting them with kind of a little bit of jealousy. I thought it was an unbelievable gesture by our fans. I was really, really flattered by that."
The National League Cy Young Award hopeful was trying to become the Major League's only 20-game winner but watched as the bullpen gave up nine runs in the seventh and eighth innings to ruin his chance at history. Wainwright finished the regular season with a 19-8 record and a 2.63 ERA.
But more importantly to the righty, he finished with a league-high 233 innings pitched.
"I didn't set any number goals as far as how many innings I wanted to throw because I didn't want to limit myself," Wainwright said. "But I definitely wanted to be on the top of that list. If you lead the league in innings, I feel like you're giving your team a chance in a lot of games. That was my goal, to go as far into the game, as deep as I could until [manager Tony La Russa] yanked the ball out of my hand. I feel like I did that this year."
They say that baseball can be a game with strange statistics that don't always add up, and that was again apparent for Wainwright in 2009. He went 12-1 on the road this year and just 7-7 at home despite having a 2.05 ERA in 19 home starts.
The righty lost home games by scores of 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 and 3-2 and took a tough no-decision against the Giants on July 1, when he gave up one run in nine innings in the Cardinals' 2-1 extra-inning win.
"I haven't pitched any different here," Wainwright said. "Wins and losses are just kind of fluky. You might run up against a tough pitcher several times. I've pitched against [Roy] Oswalt, [Carlos] Zambrano, [Matt] Cain, [Dan] Haren. Those four right there, that's really all you need. I've pitched against some tough pitchers. Sometimes you score runs and sometimes you don't."
But with the regular season coming to a close Sunday, Wainwright and the Cardinals could care less about his regular-season totals. The number on their mind is 11 -- the number of playoff victories needed to win the franchise's 11th World Series championship.