ST. LOUIS -- There was a purpose, Adam Wainwright insists, behind the wild pitch that has already been uploaded onto blooper reels and turned into instant social media fodder. For Wainwright, it was all about safety first.
The spiked fastball -- which Wainwright said "has to be one of the worst pitches of all time" -- bounced in the grass about halfway between the mound and catcher Yadier Molina before skipping to the backstop. It was so far off line that it caught everyone off guard, including two Cubs baserunners, who appeared to do a double take before advancing a base.
The pitch elicited social media comparisons to the one thrown three years ago by 50 Cent, though, of course, Wainwright's was no ceremonial offering. It came in the fourth inning of Tuesday's 2-1 Cubs win over the Cardinals.
So what happened?
"I saw Molina shift outside, and I was looking at a different part of the plate," Wainwright explained. "So when I saw that instantly, and I've seen that before, I thought he was looking for a breaking ball, and I had fastball grip. I did not want to throw a ball and hit him in the collarbone or something and have Yadier out. So I pull-hooked it, aired on the side of not hitting him by about 20-30 yards."
It was a split-second decision that Wainwright knew would allow a pair of runners to move into scoring position. But he was already ahead, 0-2, on pitcher Jake Arrieta and was more concerned about protecting his catcher.
"I know it's going to be a wild pitch, but I'd rather have a wild pitch … than have Yadier on a stretcher," Wainwright said. "He told me next time just throw it and he'll catch it. He's probably one of the only people in the world who could do that, but no reason to risk it."
Aside from the ridicule he took for the errant pitch, Wainwright wasn't hurt by it. He rebounded to strike out Arrieta and Albert Almora Jr. to strand both runners.
"That's an instinct. You don't script that stuff," manager Mike Matheny, a former catcher, said of Wainwright's reaction. "As he comes through [his delivery], up and ready to make a big pitch and sees that they're not on the same page at all, that's a whole lot to process [before] releasing the ball. Just a fraction of a second. He just did what his instincts told him. I get it."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.