Adam Wainwright couldn't have been more focused and excited to start the winner-take-all Game 5 of the NLDS in Washington last week. Then he went out and pitched a dud, allowing six runs in 2 1/3 innings to put his team in a huge hole.

For a while, it looked like that would be the last start the right-hander would make in 2011. It was a taste he surely wasn't wanting to take with him into the offseason.



But then the Cardinals did the unthinkable, coming back from the six-run deficit to stun the Nationals 9-7 and advance to the National League Championship Series against the Nationals.



They kept their season alive. More importantly, they gave Wainwright a chance at redemption. He'll start Thursday night's Game 4 against the Giants with the Cardinals leading the series 2-1.



"It was all part of my plan," Wainwright joked. "You lose the first two and you're pitching great, you've got to wake the team up. I don't want them out there sitting back on their heels. I purposely went out and pitched terribly to be unselfish."



Wainwright made sure those listening knew he was kidding, adding, "just so everyone knows, that was in jest."



The right-hander couldn't have been more disappointed with his performance. A big game pitcher, Wainwright was on the mound when the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006. He allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings in a Game 1 start to the Nationals.



But in a game that he was seemingly born to pitch in, Wainwright admittedly choked. He had nothing. Three batters into the game, the Nationals led 3-0. He gave up three home runs. It looked like the Cardinals season was over.