SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — All six feet and seven inches of Adam Wainwright walked onto the Hammons Field warning track and into the bullpen about 30 minutes before first pitch.
The sun was working its way to high noon, but Wainwright’s presence still managed to cast an imposing shadow over 6,183 Cardinals fans anxiously waiting for a pitcher they hadn’t seen in Springfield since 2008.
Two World Series rings and 147-career wins with St. Louis will do that to people.
Wainwright (1-0) put on an efficient show in his rehab start, allowing a pair of singles in the fourth and adding two strikeouts over five scoreless frames, pushing the Cardinals to a 6-2 win over the Drillers and a 2.5-game lead in the Texas League North.
After Monday’s performance, Wainwright has thrown 9.2 scoreless innings with six hits and nine strikeouts in his two Hammons Field rehab starts. Wainwright tossed 4.2 scoreless innings in a 2008 rehab start against Corpus Christi. He held Tulsa hitless through the game’s first three innings.
GETTING OFFENSIVE V2
Springfield’s six runs and seven hits Monday gives the team 33 runs on 45 hits over the current four-game winning streak.
Ramon Urias gave Wainwright a 1-0 lead when he drove in Randy Arozarena on a first-inning single.
The Cardinals padded that lead in the second when Victor Roache scored off a Thomas Spitz sacrifice fly to center.
After three more scoreless frames from Wainwright, Tommy Edman pushed Springfield’s advantage to 4-0 with a two-run double in the fifth.
A ground-rule double by Chris Chinea scored Roache in the bottom half of the sixth. A batter later, a throwing error allowed Spitz to reach and Chinea to score, giving Springfield a 6-1 lead. Chinea doubled twice in the win.
Tulsa’s first run came courtesy of D.J. Peters, who came around and scored on Connor Joe’s sixth-inning double with Connor Jones on in relief. It was Jones’ first appearance since April 15 after recently returning from the DL.
The Drillers added a run in the ninth when Drew Jackson scampered home after an Estarlin Arias wild pitch.
Wainwright expressed love for Springfield and southwest Missouri in his post-game press conference.
“This is one of the best minor league parks I’ve ever seen,” Wainwright said. “Fans are always great here and it’s just a very warm place. And the drive here is beautiful.”
But it’s not just Wainwright in love with the 417 with the Cardinals off to a 14-2 start at Hammons Field. That includes three straight wins over a Tulsa team that had a half-game lead on Springfield when this series began. Now, the Cardinals are a win away from a sweep over their North Division rivals.
The Cardinals host the Drillers for the final game of this four-game set Tuesday night at 6:30 pm.
Tuesday is a Great Southern Bank $1 Dog Day, where fans can enjoy hot dogs all game for just a buck.