Cards’ Wainwright deals gem

A beautiful Saturday afternoon with a pair aces on the mound is generally a pretty good recipe for a pitching duel. And while A’s starter Jarrod Parker departed early with a hamstring injury, Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright did not disappoint, as the Cards evened up their interleague series at the Oakland Coliseum with a 7-1 win over the A’s.

Wainwright was brilliant in going the distance to earn his 11th win, tying him for tops in the National League with the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmerman.

Just a day after Cards rookie Shelby Miller got shellacked to the tune of a 51-pitch second inning, both Wainwright and Parker came out blazing through three quick innings.

The classic pitching duel was not to be though, as Parker was forced to leave the game after 3 2/3 innings. The injury occurred on a long double by Cardinals cleanup hitter Allen Craig. As the ball bounced high off the wall in left-center, Parker fell to the ground writhing in pain as he grabbed at his right hamstring.

Parker soon regained his footing, but after four warm-up pitches, manager Bob Melvin opted to take the ball from his 24-year-old right-hander. Parker was diagnosed with right hamstring tightness. Parker is day-to-day, as the A’s are hopeful the injury was merely brought on by dehydration due to Saturday’s heat and humidity.

“We’re hoping that’s all it is,” Melvin said.  

A’s reliever Jesse Chavez looked to pick up right where Parker left off, entering the game and quickly disposing of Matt Holliday on a weak groundout to end the inning. But a sudden bout of wildness to start the fifth cost him. Chavez issued a leadoff walk to Matt Adams, then hit David Freese with a pitch. Both would come around to score, before St. Louis broke through in the sixth for four runs. Adams provided the big swing of the bat, as the burly slugger crushed a towering three-run homer to right field in a lefty-on-lefty matchup against A’s reliver Jerry Blevins. Adams added another bomb in the seventh, a solo shot to stake Wainwright to a 7-0 lead.

Seven runs were more than enough for Wainwright. The imposing 6-foot-7 right-hander looked larger than life before he even threw a pitch. And with his persistent attack mode, that stature seemed to grow more imposing as the day wore on.

Wainwright did what great players do. After Parker made quick work of the top of the Cards batting order with an efficient 12 pitches in the top of the first, Wainwright responded with an even more efficient inning of his own. The Cards’ ace threw just nine pitches in the first inning, totaled 33 through three innings, and entered the ninth with under 100. He ultimately totaled 112 pitches while surrendering one run on the afternoon.

“When he’s on, he’s one of the best pitchers in the league,” Melvin said.

Upon the game’s completion, Wainwright moves into the major league lead with 125 2/3 innings pitched. That could change if Phillies lefty Cliff Lee goes the distance against the Dodgers tonight in Los Angeles though. Lee currently ranks third in the Majors with 118 1/3 innings pitched.

With the win, the Cardinals improve to a major league best 49-31 record. With a win over Oakland in Sunday’s rubber match, the Cards would become the first team to 50 wins this season. On the same date last season, the Rangers became the first team to reach the half-century plateau.

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