Wainwright, Neshek struggle in All-Star Game
Cards pitchers combine to allow five runs in 1 1/3 innings for NL squad
MINNEAPOLIS -- Manager Mike Matheny chose his ace, Adam Wainwright, as starter and his setup man, Pat Neshek, for one of the final spots in the National League bullpen, but neither did the Cardinals any potential postseason favors in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night.
Wainwright and Neshek combined to allow all of the American League's runs in NL's 5-3 loss at Target Field. The result of the game means the AL will hold home-field advantage in the World Series, as Boston did when it defeated St. Louis last year.
"You're not going to be able to make many mistakes in a game like this and get away with them," Matheny said. "But both of those guys had tremendous seasons, and I can't wait to watch them get back there."
Wainwright, who became the ninth Cardinals pitcher to start an All-Star Game, called the assignment "one of the coolest things I can ever say I did." The results, though, did not live up to the anticipation.
He put the NL in an early three-run hole, as he served up an RBI triple to the Angels' Mike Trout and a two-run homer to the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera in the only inning he pitched. Wainwright has allowed as many as three runs in only three of his 19 starts this season.
"If you go look at where the pitch Miguel Cabrera hit of the park was, he's a Nintendo-type player," Wainwright said. "He's so good. The ball is on the white chalk line off the plate. Nobody keeps that ball fair. He's just a very good hitter.
"Sometimes, unfortunately, you tip your hat to these guys that are very good."
The AL's rally against Wainwright started with a leadoff double by Derek Jeter, whose at-bat was delayed by Wainwright's decision to drop his glove on the mound, step back and join in the standing ovation. On Wainwright's second pitch, Jeter lined a double to right field.
Trout drove the future Hall of Famer in on a full-count fastball. Cabrera capped the scoring with a homer into the left-field seats. Wainwright has been the league's stingiest at serving up the long ball, allowing none since May and only four in 138 innings coming into the break.
Wainwright sandwiched the home run with strikeouts of the Mariners' Robinson Cano and the Jays' Jose Bautista. His appearance ended with the Orioles' Nelson Cruz grounding out on Wainwright's 21st pitch.
"I know I can put up a zero against anybody at anytime," Wainwright said. "I've done that many times in bigger situations than that. I'm not going to hang my head too bad. I know there are going to be people who said, 'Why didn't [Dodgers ace Clayton] Kershaw start? He obviously pitched better.' What I do know is I had a great time, and I'll have to pitch a few more All-Star Games to make up for it."
The NL offense took Wainwright off the hook by evening the game, 3-3, with two runs in the second and another in the fourth. Instead, the loss was Neshek's, his first of the season.
"I was actually really relaxed, and I think that might have been the problem," Neshek said. "My stuff was terrible. My fastball was barely breaking 90 [mph] out there. It just felt weird out there. I'm kind of glad to get that out of my system. It [stinks] because there is a lot on the line, but you're going to have those days."
Neshek, who has allowed one run in his last 38 appearances for the Cardinals, gave up two while recording just one out in the fifth. He opened the inning by facing former A's teammates Josh Donaldson (groundout) and Derek Norris (single). Two more hits, including an RBI double by Trout, knocked Neshek from the game.
Though it wasn't the result he had envisioned in his return to Minneapolis, his hometown and the place where his pro career started, Neshek would not let it sour the overall experience.
He was moved by the reception he received during Tuesday's midday parade and again during pregame introductions. Among NL players, the applause rivaled only the one received by Carlos Gomez, also a former Twins player.
"That was pretty awesome, probably one of the highlights of my career," Neshek said. "That made my night. I was overwhelmed. I didn't expect it."
Two-time All-Star Matt Carpenter did not appear in the game. Yadier Molina, the Cardinals' fourth All-Star, was unable to participate due to a thumb injury.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.