Wainwright threw a four-hitter for his 23rd career complete game and first in four years. The Cardinals snapped a four-game skid during which they scored six total runs.
"It's just, you know, a lot of hard work from a lot of different people have gone into making me able to pitch this year and pitch well,'' an emotional Wainwright said. "You know, when you think you're done three years ago, and you're able to complete a game a couple years later, it's a crazy life, a crazy game.''
Dexter Fowler homered and had three RBIs for St. Louis, which stopped Cleveland's four-game winning streak. The Indians had won 10 in a row on the road.
Wainwright settled in after allowing a two-run homer to Tyler Naquin in the second inning. The right-hander struck out nine and walked two, going the distance for the first time since July 16, 2016, against the Marlins.
The performance even prompted the entire Indians team to salute him after the final out.
"That was special,'' Wainwright said. "I'll never forget it. Appreciate it. Thank you very much, Cleveland.''
Just as gratifying, he gave a much-needed breather to a bullpen that worked 15⅓ innings over the previous two games.
Wainwright knew the importance of going deep and told Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux before the game that he had 120 pitches in him. Wainwright finished with 122, the most by any pitcher this season.
"I know our bullpen is taxed, and the guys were tired and they just needed a break,'' Wainwright said. "Nobody feels sorry for us, but, you know, this game is such a grind mentally. Physically everybody's in very good shape, but it's such a grind mentally to play that many games and not have any off days and then go into extra innings and play really tough opponents that are grinding out at-bats.''
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt called the outing the stuff of legend.
"That veteran leadership -- the right kind of veteran leadership matters -- and him and Yadi [Molina] clearly demonstrated that today. And a game that, you know, got us back on track," Shildt said.
"Waino is 39 but he looked young and proved that he has more baseball in him,'' Molina said.
A little later, Wainwright was the target of some good-natured ribbing from younger teammates. When the Cardinals arrived at the airport for their trip to Cincinnati, he was given a wheelchair ride to the plane courtesy of fellow pitcher Jack Flaherty, who waited in full PPE with a small, handwritten sign seeking "Mr. Adam Wainwright."
"He respects his elders so much,'' Wainwright tweeted. "Good one young fella."
What a surprise to see @Jack9Flaherty waiting on me at the airport like this... then I was wheel-chaired all the way to the plane. He respects his elders so much. Good one young fella. pic.twitter.com/hdlX8XPirH— Adam Wainwright (@UncleCharlie50) August 30, 2020
With the start against the Indians, Wainwright has made at least one versus every team except the Cardinals.
"He commanded the edges incredibly,'' acting Indians manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said of Wainwright. "Give him credit, he never leaves balls in the middle of the plate. ... It's hard to put barrel when you're on the edges. He was very sharp.''
The Associated Press contributed to this report.