McNeal: Wainwright-Matheny spat is perfectly OK

ST. LOUIS — Maybe the two-hour and 59-minute weather delay had fouled their mood. Maybe all the delays over the past few weeks — 15 hours and 22 minutes worth — had worn out their patience. Or maybe being swept for the first time all season brought out their unpleasant side.

Whatever the reason, Adam Wainwright was visibly steamed and Mike Matheny was clearly bothered after the Cardinals’ 2-1 loss to the Rangers early Monday morning.

And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that.

Let’s go to the situation. Top of the seventh, Cardinals lead 1-0 and Wainwright has retired the first two Rangers. David Murphy then slams a full-count curveball off the right-field wall and eight-hole hitter Leonys Martin lines a run-scoring single on the seventh pitch of his at-bat to wipe out the Cardinals’ lead.

And immediately send Matheny to double-switch Wainwright from the 1-1 tie. Wainwright had thrown 105 pitches and allowed two base-runners in an inning for the second consecutive inning.

“Two pretty stressful innings in a row,” Matheny replied when asked why he pulled his ace. “Adam was making good pitches all the way through. (Martin) kept fighting, ended up putting together a good enough at-bat to get the run across the plate. (Wainwright) did a great job for us today.”

When Matheny was asked a follow-up, he obviously was miffed. He took a second to gather himself before he answered.

“It is a tricky call,” Matheny said. “But after he’s labored like we said, he’s thrown over 20 pitches in that inning. We’ve got our eighth-inning guy and Waino is going to be up second (in the bottom of the seventh). He’s not going to hit for himself. We’ve got an opportunity for (Trevor Rosenthal) to come in. He’s going to pitch the next (inning), too. He can get one out and get us out of that, hopefully get us an opportunity to get a run.”

Wainwright didn’t buy the explanation. Not in any way, shape or form. When told that  Matheny thought Wainwright had been laboring, the 6-foot-7 right-hander was hotter than his manager had been defensive.

“He’s wrong. You don’t want to call your manager out and I would never do that,” Wainwright said before doing just that. “Laboring is not what I was doing. He’s the manager. He makes the call. If you think I’m laboring because I went into deep counts, I went into deep counts all day. Made good pitches. That’s his opinion.”

All the ire could have been avoided if the first batter to face Rosenthal, pinch-hitter Jurickson Profar, had been retired. But Profar’s soft liner hit the heel of shortstop Pete Kozma’s glove and rolled away for an error that left the Rangers with runners on first and second. Ian Kinsler promptly lined a single to left to score the winning run and make a loser out of Wainwright even though he allowed only one earned run in 6 2/3 innings.

Though Kozma appeared to misjudge the soft liner, like it had spun off the bat strangely, he said simply, “I missed it.”

“Things like that happen,” Matheny said.

You know what else happens? Competitive people can get emotional, especially after a tough loss.

While Wainwright says he wouldn’t call out his manager, I’m glad he did. The Cardinals have enjoyed such a successful first half and faced such little adversity on the field that Sunday night’s shakeup was good to see.

Wainwright was fired up because he’s as competitive as any starter in the game. He believed he had earned the opportunity to finish the inning, as he absolutely has. If the Cardinals had not just lost their third straight game, Matheny would not have been as overly sensitive to the second-guessing.

This was the Cardinals showing their spirit after a tough loss. Matheny talks often about not wanting his players to play without showing their emotions. Anyone who thinks Wainwright’s 24/7 sunny disposition means he doesn’t get mad was proven otherwise by this.

Maybe this episode will shake the Cardinals out of the doldrums of a mediocre 9-10 stretch. Maybe that’s making too much of what happened. Likely, by the time the Cardinals report to work Tuesday at Houston, Sunday night will seem like the distant past.

That doesn’t mean the incident will be forgotten. Just don’t expect it to create a distraction or disrupt the Cardinals’ season. Wainwright seemed ready to forget it once he left the clubhouse. He said he wasn’t even planning to talk to Matheny about it.

“Even if I did, I would never tell y’all,” he said. “That’s something that stays in here.”

Nothing wrong with that, just as there was nothing wrong with seeing the happy-camper Cardinals show some spirit.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at