Andrew Miller was warming after back-to-back singles by Matt Adams and Trea Turner in the top of the eighth inning on Saturday afternoon, and he ended up coming on after Adam Eaton’s two-run double to right field off Adam Wainwright drove in both runners, turning the Washington Nationals’ 1-0 lead into a 3-0 advantage in Game 2 of the NLCS in St. Louis.
Wainwright walked Anthony Rendon intentionally after Eaton’s double, then Miller retired both Juan Soto and Howie Kendrick to get the Cardinals out of the top of the inning, and they scored a run on Sean Doolittle (on a misplay by Michael A. Taylor in center field really) in the bottom of the inning which might have tied things up if they hadn’t fallen behind by three in the top of the eighth.
Davey Martinez was asked after the 3-1 win if he was surprised the Cards left Wainwright in to face Eaton in that situation.
“Yeah, for Eaton, I mean, hey, Wainwright was really good today, really good, as he typically is. His breaking ball was really good, he was locating his fastballs. I think Eaton just put a really good at-bat on him. I mean he struggled throughout the day with the breaking ball and that last, he got the count to 3-2 and was able to squeak a ball by [Paul] Goldschmidt there.”
Eaton was 0 for 3 with a K on the day against Wainwright, and 6 for 14 with one double and a home run off the Cardinals’ right-hander in their respective careers, and he was coming off a big game in the series opener in which he was 0 for 3 before he tripled to left-center and scored the second of two runs the Nationals plated in their 2-0 win in Game 1.
Before the eighth inning in Game 2, the only run Wainwright had allowed came on a solo home run by Michael A. Taylor in the top of the third. Taylor hit a first-pitch cutter out to left field to make it a 1-0 game early.
“The cutter was a little sloppy today,” Wainwright said after the game “... but I threw some good ones, but also threw some really bad ones.
“That’s what Taylor hit out. That was my only mistake in the middle of the plate for a while, but good hitters hit balls like that out of the park.”
Wainwright cruised through the next few innings, working around singles by Taylor and Trea Turner, before he ran into the trouble in the eighth, but his manager stuck with him.
“What goes into it?” Cards’ skipper Mike Shildt asked rhetorically when his decision-making in leaving Wainwright in to face Eaton was questioned after the Cardinals’ second straight loss.
“A guy’s got 11 strikeouts, is still hitting his spots. I think he probably made two mistakes, the one to Taylor, cutter, got the ball up the patch, put a swing on it. But then you looked at the Turner at-bat and he bloops one in. Then you look to the Eaton at-bat, I thought he was going to be able to execute. And just watching he was executing everything he was doing. So you take your chances with a guy that’s in the moment, in the competition, that’s pitched as well as he has, that is still executing his pitches, and he more than deserved that opportunity, and [Eaton] snuck one down the line on him.”
Eaton said he knew he had to stay focused no matter which pitcher he ended up going against in that at bat, and after the seven-pitch battle, Wainwright left a 3-2 curve up for him.
“You know, you’re going to have to keep locked in on who is on the mound at the time,” he explained. “I didn’t even try to look out into the bullpen to see who is warming up because now you’re trying to think managerial — when you should be just focused on hitting. So I walked to the plate facing Wainwright and him and [Yadier Molina] were kind of confusing me all day in that at-bat and keeping me really, really off balance. And in that sense 3-2, kind of knew he was going to go to the breaking ball, more so than any other pitch -- or any other at-bat that I’ve had. And I knew he had to throw it for a strike so it kind of gave me an opportunity to sit on it and got it and hit it where they weren’t.”
Did he take anything from the first few at bats against Wainwright into the eighth inning?
“Yeah, everything I was thinking, they did the opposite,” Eaton said. “So, I was thinking 3-2 should be a heater here and I’m like, well, that’s the opposite, so I should George Costanza it and just go ahead and said breaking ball and that’s what happened and George was right and I happened to be right.”