MILWAUKEE -- As Luke Weaver sat in the Miller Park visiting clubhouse, studying film and jotting down notes on the hitters he'd soon face, Adam Wainwright concluded his bullpen session by telling the Cardinals he felt ready to return to the rotation.
Reclaiming that spot will nudge Weaver from the starting mix, but Weaver ensured that, even if his days are numbered, he'll be leaving behind a lasting impression. With the longest start of his young career, Weaver pitched the Cardinals to a 5-4 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park on Wednesday.
"It looked like he had a lot of confidence in every pitch he was throwing tonight and was putting it just about right where he wanted to," manager Mike Matheny said. "The thing I saw was a different rhythm. He had a good pace going."
Weaver acknowledged that he pitched with more conviction on Wednesday, partly in response to the Cardinals challenging him to crank up the aggressiveness. It helped, too, that he had a collection of different pitches that he felt confident in from the get-go.
The righty found success elevating the fastball, and he generated a collection of swing-and-misses on the changeup. His curveball complemented both.
"The ball was exploding out of his hand, and it looked like he really had a good feel on that changeup today," Kolten Wong said of watching Weaver from behind. "I don't think people realize how sneaky his fastball is. Obviously it's a mid-90s [mph] fastball, but it plays a tick up. … I think from here on, it's just going to be growth."
Some of that growth happened within the last week. After being stung by a grand slam in a five-inning start against Arizona, Weaver revisited how he was using his repertoire. He fell into fewer deep counts on Wednesday and came away with eight strikeouts, five of which ended innings.
After allowing a first-inning home run, Weaver responded by retiring 12 of the next 13 batters he faced. The Brewers didn't muster a hit against him with runners in scoring position until the seventh.
"I just felt there was some life to my pitches and I felt in control," Weaver said. "But I'm just really trying to hone in there and take it into the next start and build off it."
Unless the Cardinals choose to slide Weaver into a bullpen role, which they did briefly in July, his next start will likely be back in Triple-A, where Weaver has been dominant (9-1 with a 1.91 ERA) this season. But this stint with the big league club reaffirmed why the Cardinals consider him a ready rotation option when needed and resisted trading Weaver as interest in the former first-rounder picked up around the non-waiver Trade Deadline last week.
"Without question, one of the best starts we've seen from him," Matheny said. "That's just exactly what we know that he's done at every other level, and it's very nice to see it here."