ST. LOUIS (AP) — Adam Wainwright has always wanted to make a grand entrance. The veteran St. Louis right-hander got his chance on Sunday.
Wainwright led the Cardinals onto the field with his fist in the air, shaking and cheering to pump up his team as the crowd went wild.
The theatrics worked perfectly as Wainwright was in vintage form, pitching six sharp innings as the Cardinals avoided a three-game sweep by beating the San Diego Padres 4-1.
“I’ve always dreamt about coming out on the field, and cuing music and getting the guys to run out in front of me,” Wainwright said. “I texted the team this morning and said, ‘I’ve always wanted to do this. You might think it’s corny.’ But they were like, ‘Let’s do it.'”
“It fired me up, that’s what the goal was,” he said.
The actions by the normally businesslike Wainwright set the tone for the rest of the day.
“He brought us out and kicked our fans into gear,” St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said.
Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong, who drove in two runs, enjoyed the show.
“He’s a leader and a legend in this uniform,” DeJong said. “For us to be out there competing (with him) is a true honor. We were all engaged looking at him.”
The Padres hadn’t swept a series in St. Louis since 1980, and Wainwright (1-0) prevented it from happening this time at Busch Stadium.
The 37-year-old gave up one run and five hits. He struck out nine and didn’t issue a walk while throwing 100 pitches.
The longtime star of the St. Louis rotation was injured for most of last season, going just 2-4 in eight starts. He struggled in his first outing this year, giving up four runs on four hits and four walks in four innings at Pittsburgh.
“I knew coming into today I needed to be in a better place mentally,” Wainwright said. “When I’m good mentally, I’m usually pretty good physically.”
Wainwright struck out two in four of his six innings.
“The stuff was definitely there,” San Diego first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “He looked good. You can tell he’s feeling pretty healthy.”
Hosmer had an RBI single in the third for the Padres, who had won three in a row. San Diego’s other four hits off Wainwright were doubles.
Jordan Hicks recorded four outs for his first save in two chances. He struck out Manny Machado with a runner on to end the eighth.
“He’s got unbelievable talent,” Hicks said of Machado. “But I know I’m good as well.”
DeJong drove in a pair of runs with a fourth-inning double off Matt Strahm (0-2). Matt Carpenter walked and Paul Goldschmidt reached when left fielder Hunter Renfroe lost the ball in the sun. Renfroe was given an error on the play.
Carpenter added a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the seventh. Kolten Wong and Jose Martinez began the inning with back-to-back singles.
Wong pushed the lead to 4-1 with an infield single in the eighth. It brought in Yadier Molina, who led off the inning with a single, his third hit of the game.
St. Louis center fielder Harrison Bader made a pair of running catches and also threw out Renfroe at third on a fly ball to end the third.
San Diego won six of its first nine games entering the contest, its best start since the 2009 team also went 6-3.
“It’s good for a club’s confidence,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “Any time you have a chance to win three against a very good club, it’s great, but we didn’t seal the deal on that today.”
YADI ON THE RISE
Molina moved into seventh place on the Cardinals all-time hit list with 1,857. He passed Ken Boyer, who had 1,855.
“It’s a great honor,” Molina said. “I’m seeing the ball pretty well.”
St. Louis RHP Alex Reyes and INF Yairo Munoz were sent to Triple-A Memphis prior to the game. LHP Tyler Webb and RHP Giovanny Gallegos were recalled and in uniform.
Padres: OF Franchy Cordero was held out of the lineup due to a sore right elbow. He left Saturday’s game in the fifth inning.
Padres: LHP Eric Lauer (1-1, 3.27) will face LHP Madison Bumgarner (0-2, 1.38) in the first of a three game series in San Francisco on Monday. Lauer tossed six shutout innings on opening day in a 2-0 win over the Giants.
Cardinals: RHP Miles Mikolas (0-1, 7.20) will face LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (2-0, 2.08) in the first of a four-game set in St. Louis on Monday.
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