Wainwright strikes out in cameo to end career, Cardinals beat Reds 4-3

Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals walks back to the dugout after striking out during the eighth inning of Sunday afternoon's game against the Reds at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. (Associated Press)

ST. LOUIS -- Adam Wainwright made one final appearance in his 18-year big league career, striking out as a pinch hitter Sunday in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 4-3 season-ending win to the Cincinnati Reds.

“When I left the dugout today for the last time ever with a bat and wearing my spikes, that’s a pretty good way for me to go out,” Wainwright said.

Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto, playing perhaps his final game with the Reds, struck out in the first inning, then was ejected before the top of the second by plate umpire Shane Livensparger.

Wainwright, a 42-year-old right-hander, went 200-128 with a 3.53 ERA in 18 major league seasons, all with the Cardinals. He got his 200th win in in his final pitching appearance Sept. 18 against Milwaukee.

He grounded out as a pinch hitter Friday night in his first plate appearance in two years, then was honored during a pregame ceremony Sunday before a crowd of 44,614.

Fans chanted Wainwright’s name in the eighth inning and former catcher Yadier Molina held up a sign from the stands saying, “Let Waino bat.” A career .192 batter, Wainwright hit for José Fermín with one out. Alan Busenitz struck out Wainwright on five pitches with two foul balls. Wainwright received a huge ovation on his way back to the dugout for the last time.

Wainwright was speaking with manager Oli Marmol about hoping the Cardinals scored some more runs to support starter Miles Mikolas’ effort.

“I told him I’d like to respect the game and get Miles the win if we can add on,” Wainwright said. “Literally, 45 seconds later (Molina’s) sign pops up and the fans started chanting. Oli looks over at me and says, “You’ve got to hit.’”

St. Louis finished 71-91, down from 93-69 last year en route to winning the National League Central title and the Cardinals’ worst record since going 70-92 in 1990.

Nick Martini homered for the Reds, who were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention Saturday. Cincinnati finished 82-80, a 20-win improvement from last year.

Votto was given a brief ovation during his at-bat in the top half, struck out on a foul and returned to the dugout without argument.

Before the top of the second, Votto came onto the field trailed by Bell and had a conversation with Livensparger, who was joined by third base umpire Phil Cuzzi. Votto returned to the dugout and headed to the clubhouse to check out the video. The ejection was the 15th of Votto’s career.

A six-time All-Star, Votto has a .294 average with 356 homers and 1,144 RBI in 17 seasons. Tyler Stephenson replaced Votto at first base in the bottom of the second.

Livensparger told a pool reporter, “I did give him one shot and asked him what was the problem. When he continued arguing, that’s when he was removed.”

Luken Baker broke a tie at 2 with a run-scoring double in the third inning off Hunter Greene (4-7), who gave up four runs and nine hits in five innings.

Mikolas (9-13) allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings with 10 strikeouts.

Ryan Helsely got his 14th save in 19 chances.

Noelvi Marte extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a double in the ninth inning for the Reds.

The Cardinals lost four of their final seven games.

“The mindset is this year is over, forget about it,” St. Louis infielder Paul Goldschmidt said. “Use this as a motivator. It exposed the things we need to work on.”

Cardinals third-base coach Pop Warner missed the game after leaving Saturday’s game due to dizziness. He was checked at a hospital and released. Stubby Clapp coached third Sunday.

St. Louis drew 3,241,091 fans, down from 3.32 million last year. The Cardinals topped 3 million for the 25th time, second only to the Los Angeles.