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Adam & Yadi Will Always Know How to Survive

It hit me one March day, when they were apart, how long they’d been together. Yadier Molina [1] was captaining Puerto Rico to the finals of the WBC. Adam Wainwright [2] was working out his kinks against the Mets on the East Coast of Florida. Soon enough, they’d reunite, accomplished battery, same team, another year. Two baseball standouts who go about their business away from our line of sight, save for two series per season when they reappear as living reminders of the forces that can conspire to prevent ultimate satisfaction.

Saturday they came into view again, bringing with them for our perusing pleasure their ever dustier scrapbook. It’s now eleven years old. Politely we agree to have a look. There they and we are, so much younger. We recognize them. We recognize ourselves. We flip through and wonder whatever happened to this 2006 Cardinal or that 2006 Met. We eventually come to their pages, toward the back of the album, and we don’t have to wonder what these guys are up to.

They’re still in St. Louis. They’re still sticking it to us. It’s what they do, Adam and Yadi, the Brenda and Eddie of the National League Central, except they go back to the green every spring. Yadier still makes All-Star appearances. This Tuesday will be his eighth. Adam’s not quite at that level anymore. The most recent of his three such designations came in 2014. Wainwright’s 2017 ERA (5.20) is unsightly, but he’s doing enough well to win twice as often as he loses for a team that’s south of .500. Throwing to Molina probably helps.

The catcher who stroked a deadly two-run homer in the top of the ninth on October 19, 2006, and the pitcher who broke a lethal curve into that same catcher’s mitt in the bottom of that same inning continued to pursue their professional relationship on Saturday. They dashed the Mets’ dreams more than a decade before. They’re not in a position to do much of that at the moment, seeing as how the only dream the Mets maintain currently is one day without calamity — breathe easily [3], Brandon Nimmo [4] — and a couple of days off. The Mets aren’t much good. The Cardinals aren’t much better. But Adam and Yadi will always know how to survive…and how to beat the Mets.

Wainwright stared into Molina’s fingers for six-and-two-thirds innings to great effect. Other than a solo home run to Jay Bruce [5], he gave up nothing of consequence. Molina came to bat three times against Zack Wheeler [6], singling the second time and doubling in a run the third. That RBI put the Cardinals up, 2-0, in the sixth, providing enough cushion for Wainwright to sustain Bruce’s damage and leave on the winning side [7] of what became a 4-1 decision in his favor. Wheeler (3-6) was pretty good. Wainwright (10-5) was better. Travis d’Arnaud [8] caught a couple of Cardinals stealing, one of them Molina. The Cardinal our catcher didn’t catch, Tommy Pham [9], was the Cardinal their catcher drove in with what proved to be the decisive run.

I won’t say “and it was ever thus…” or insist it inevitably goes like this. Johan Santana [10] outpitched Adam Wainwright a notable ballgame five years ago, with Mike Baxter [11] memorably negating Yadier Molina’s offensive animus that very same Friday night. We win some, we lose some. We don’t forget we lost a Game Seven to those two — and 23 of their teammates — in 2006, but we can choose to remember we won four games in a much more recent NLCS. Called Strike Three to Carlos Beltran [12] officially receded from recency when Dexter Fowler [13] succumbed to the exact same result in 2015; less legendary, just as definitive. It took nine years, but we moved on to the next round. Dwelling on the worst of Molina and Wainwright isn’t a reflex reaction to random stimuli anymore, except twice per season, when we pause and remember because they continue to get in our face. We stay Mets fans. They stay Cardinal nemeses in tandem. Someday their red-tinged uniforms, the only ones they’ve worn as major leaguers, will be peeled off them. Until then, they are an anomaly in an age of accelerated diaspora. Molina’s been a Cardinal since 2004 (his first hit against the Mets beat Mike Stanton [14] in walkoff fashion), Wainwright since 2005 (the first homer he surrendered in the bigs was to Victor Diaz [15]). They were 2006 world champs instead of us. They — and 23 of their teammates — won Saturday’s game instead of us. They’ll be passing through Citi Field the week after next.

It’s not comforting. It’s less than reassuring. I root for neither of them to succeed. But lord help me, I’ve lived long enough to grudgingly admire their constancy and its context as it relates to ours.