2015 Arch Awards: What was the Best Storyline in St. Louis Sports During 2015?

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Wainwright Returns from Torn Achilles in Five Months

Plenty of St. Louis Cardinals fans were content to declare the season over on April 25, as staff ace Adam Wainwright came up lame during a fifth-inning at bat at Miller Park and needed significant help to make his way back to the clubhouse. Two days later, the 33-year-old Wainwright was diagnosed with a torn Achilles, a brutal injury that nearly always sidelines even the most elite athletes for periods ranging around a year. In fact, if one types “Adam Wainwright tears Achilles” into Google, the first result that pops up is an MLB.com article with the headline “Wainwright has torn Achilles, out 9-12 months”.

However, what most injury experts, professional and amateur alike, did not realize is that Wainwright has a work ethic so strong that he can defy the laws of physics. After initially going along with doctors’ predictions that he’d miss the rest of the season, Wainwright had changed his tune by June, publicly stating his hope to pitch again in 2015. Wainwright was working out again by June, out of a walking boot by early July, running and playing catch by August, and throwing off a mound by the first week of September.

After being cleared to resume baseball activities on September 21, Wainwright pitched a few simulated games near the end of September and completed the extremely improbable comeback on September 30, being activated from the 60-day disabled list. The 6-foot-7, 235-pounder made a one-inning appearance out of the bullpen that day, giving up two hits and an earned run, and he returned to full form by the final series of the regular season, making two hitless, scoreless relief appearances against the Atlanta Braves.

Wainwright showed the Cardinals enough over those three appearances to earn a spot on the postseason roster, and he was one of their most important weapons out of the bullpen during the National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs. Over 5.1 innings spanning three appearances, Wainwright had six strikeouts, no walks, and a 1.69 ERA. Two of Wainwright’s three playoff appearances were perfect, and all three spanned multiple innings.

Perhaps the craziest part of the story was that Wainwright was widely expected to start Game 5 of the series, had the Cardinals been able to fight off elimination for one more game. While he surely would have been on some form of pitch count, the fact that Wainwright was prepared to make a postseason start just five months removed from Achilles surgery is absolutely incredible.

Wainwright’s story is one of the greatest examples ever of what resilience and a strong work ethic can do for an athlete, and anyone that did not yet respect the veteran starter had to have been won over by his rapid comeback from what nearly everyone believed to be a season-ending injury.

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