DENVER -- For a starter who makes his living on his curveball, Adam Wainwright is seemingly unfazed pitching in the thin air at Coors Field. The veteran right-hander quieted a sellout crowd of 48,106 with his best outing of the year, throwing seven scoreless innings and scattering just three singles in the Cardinals' 3-0 win over the Rockies on Saturday.
Wainwright is now 10-1 with a 1.56 ERA against the Rockies, and has given up just one run over his last three outings, a span of 20 1/3 innings. Wainwright cast a wide velocity spectrum, creating nearly a 20 mph gap between his low-90s fastball and the off-the-table curve, which was put in play just three times.
"If I'm doing things like I want to do, it's very hard for them to know what's coming, where it's going to be, what speed it's going to be," Wainwright said. "Maybe it's the same pitch they're thinking, but maybe it's a different speed than they think it's going to be. I like pitching like that."
A Rockies offense that had scored 81 runs over its last 12 games was stymied, and it couldn't find life even after Wainwright left -- and with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal escaped the jam -- which came on two walks and a fielding error by first baseman Jedd Gyorko -- by forcing a critical groundout to Carlos Gonzalez to end the inning after throwing 33 pitches.
Gonzalez said the wide velocity variance -- from Wainwright's curve that dropped into the 60s and Rosenthal's four-seamer that touched 100 -- manipulated his anticipation.
"You have that in the back of your mind," Gonzalez said. "[Rosenthal] throws 100, but I don't know if he's going to challenge me. And he does. He had good velocity to get you late. The whole at-bat, I had that in the back of my mind. I think that's why I was a little late and off his fastballs. And then when you get to two strikes, you never know what's coming. A really good pitch to make me ground out."
Rockies starter Kyle Freeland turned in his seventh quality start, giving up three earned runs on eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts over six innings. Though victim of a few mistake pitches, the left-handed rookie showed signs of poise. He sparked a 1-2-3 double play with the bases loaded to end the fourth inning, and he retired his final six batters after hanging a slider to Tommy Pham for a homer in the fifth. The Rockies dropped to 7-3 in games started by Freeland.
"He gave us a chance to hang in there and keep it close," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "Their pitching made pitches throughout the night. We couldn't muster anything."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pham goes flying: Pham lifted a first-pitch, middle-in slider a projected 426 feet to left with no outs in the fifth to push the Cards ahead, 3-0. It was Pham's second-deepest homer of his career, according to Statcast™, with an exit velocity of 106 mph.
"It was a big day," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Pham's 3-for-4 night with a walk. "He comes through when we needed a little bit of breathing room. He's been getting good at-bats. You can tell the way he's taking pitches that he's seeing the ball really well."
Career night for Molina: Yadier Molina extended the Majors-leading active hit streak to 16 games -- tying a career best, first set last year from July 8 to Aug. 2 -- with an RBI single to center in the third. Since the streak began on May 8, Molina is 18-for-64 with three homers and eight RBIs, and is now three games shy of tying Ted Simmons for the longest hit streak by a Cardinals catcher, set in 1973 and tied in '75. The Majors' high mark for a catcher is 34 games, set by Benito Santiago in '87.
"He knows what he's doing up there. He's smart. That's why he's still in the game. He knows how to pitch. I feel like he's not afraid to pitch here. He's done it not just tonight; a couple times. He's a good pitcher." -- Gonzalez on Wainwright
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
A big part of Wainwright's effectiveness was both his unpredictable mix of pitches and the ability to effectively double his arsenal by changing speeds on all his pitches. He threw 34 fastballs ranging in speeds from 88-93 mph; 32 curves from 64-76 mph; 32 cutters from 81-90 mph; 10 sinkers from 85-93 mph; and a 79 mph changeup.
"He's got an idea -- he knows who he wants to throw the 75 [mph] curve to and who he won't throw the 68 to," Matheny said. "He's special."
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals:Lance Lynn will climb the hill for the Cardinals at 2:10 p.m. CT Sunday for the series finale in Colorado. He's coming off eight innings of one-run ball when he dueled with the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw in a game the Cardinals lost in the 13th. Lynn allowed two hits and two walks while striking out 10. He is 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA against the Rockies in his career, and 1-0 with a 1.77 ERA at Coors Field.
Rockies:German Marquez will make his first home start since taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Cubs on May 10. In his last three outings, Marquez is 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA, and excluding his 2017 debut against the Nats on April 25, Marquez is 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA.