Don’t count on the Cardinals having six players make the All-Star team like they did in 2013. Or even five like in 2012.
But they could — make that, should — be able to boast one All-Star accomplishment they haven’t been able to since 2005. They should have the NL’s starting pitcher in Adam Wainwright, who is 10-4 with a 2.01 ERA and on numerous occasions been called the top pitcher in the league by his manager.
If Wainwright is tabbed for the honor, he would become the first Cardinals pitcher to start the game since his buddy, Chris Carpenter, nine All-Star Games ago.
Here’s hoping that Mike Matheny, who as the NL manager will pick the starting pitcher, can choose his ace without any one complaining. Matheny earned the All-Star gig by guiding the Cardinals to the World Series last year. He should be able to get something out of it other than losing a few days off during his All-Star break.
Besides, no one is more deserving than Wainwright. The Reds could argue for Johnny Cueto, who has pitched a few more innings and put up a slightly lower ERA than Wainwright. Cueto would be a popular pick in Cincinnati, but Cardinals fans would not be happy if the guy that caused the most damage in the 2010 Reds-Cardinals brawl was chosen over a Cardinals pitcher by the Cardinals manager.
Aside from Cueto, few other candidates stand out. The Dodgers could make a decent but certainly not convincing case for a number of their guys, and the Brewers’ Kyle Lohse — remember him — deserves a mention but not strong consideration. And that’s about it.
Wainwright owns the edge in unofficial tiebreakers, too, for being one of the league’s top starters for the past two seasons. He was deserving of the All-Star start last year but with the game being played at the Mets’ home park, Mets right-hander Matt Harvey got the nod.
If the Cardinals’ rotation stays on turn til the break, the timing of Wainwright’s upcoming starts also would work to his advantage. His last start before the July 15 All-Star game is set for Saturday, July 12, giving him three days to rest for a one or two-inning outing against the AL.
Just to complete the feel-good story of a Wainwright start, he likely would be throwing to the man he’s thrown to so many times over the years, Yadier Molina. A five-time All-Star, Molina has led the fans’ balloting from the first update.
If Wainwright and Molina both start, it would be the first time Cardinals formed the NL All-Star battery since the early 1940s, when Mort Cooper threw to his brother, Walker Cooper, in 1942 and 1943.
Wainwright and Molina will have plenty of company among Cardinals in Minnesota since Matheny gets to bring his entire coaching staff. As for other players, the Cardinals’ leading candidates include Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Trevor Rosenthal and Pat Neshek. Lance Lynn had put himself into the conversation until his most recent start and Michael Wacha also was putting up worthy numbers until his injury.
It will be a surprise if more than two others besides Wainwright and Molina make the team, in part because of the rule that every club must be represented. Carpenter rates the best chance because Matheny could make him his utility man.
Adams has been hitting like an All-Star since his return from the disabled list but he faces plenty of competition at first base in Paul Goldschmidt, the runaway leader in fans’ balloting, Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman and Justin Morneau. The NL carried four first basemen a year ago so Adams still has a shot.
After an up-and-down start to his season, Rosenthal has been as dominant as he was last October. He has given up only one run and nine hits since May 21 and ranks among NL leaders with 24 saves. Neshek, a non-roster invitee in spring training, has been the club’s most reliable reliever from the start of the season and has emerged as the main setup man. He ranks second among NL relievers with a 0.83 ERA and third in opponents’ batting average, at .127.
Rosenthal, 24, figures to have many more chances to be an All-Star but this could be the 33-year-old Neshek’s best shot. You can be sure that Matheny also knows that the All-Star game would be a homecoming of sorts for Neshek, who is from Minnesota, broke in with the Twins and has a brother who works on the grounds crew at Target Field.
Perhaps Matheny can find room for both on the NL team. If not, choosing between the two relievers could be his toughest All-Star decision.
Certainly a lot tougher than picking who the starting pitcher should be.