MINNEAPOLIS — Before the words came out of his mouth, it was clear who Cardinals manager Mike Matheny would choose to start the 85th All-Star Game for the National League squad he'll lead Tuesday at Target Field.
Really, it has been for months.
As far back as spring training, Matheny had hoped to get Adam Wainwright the honor, and it was up to the ace to put together the first half of the season that merited it. He did.
Wainwright walked into a ballroom today at noon with his manager, and it was clear that Matheny had chosen his righty over Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw for the honor of pitching at least the first inning for the National League. It will be a first for Wainwright who was selected for last year's game but opted not to pitch because he had a chance to start the Sunday before the All-Star break and he knew Matt Harvey would start for the NL at Citi Field.
"It was not an easy task even though it may have looked that way," Matheny said. "A lot of deserving pitchers out there but none more so than our Adam Wainwright."
In nine of his first 18 starts this season, Wainwright allowed zero runs - the first pitcher in baseball history to have nine shutout appearances in his first 18 games of the season.
Wainwright is 12-4 with a 1.83 ERA.
His wins and ERA are among the league leaders, and his three complete games lead the NL. The ERA is second in the league only to Kershaw. Wainwright has two complete-game shutouts. He missed one start this season to rest an ailing elbow, while Kershaw missed more than a month of starts. Kershaw had a tremendous June that included a no-hitter and a 41-inning scoreless streak that extended into July.
"This has got to be one of the highlights of my baseball career to this point," Wainwright said. "I'm incredibly happy, fortunate to be placed in this situation."
Wainwright's first pitch will be to retiring Yankee captain Derek Jeter. They have never faced each other.
"Just to be able to say I faced the best," Wainwright said. "I feel very fortunate and honored to say I faced Derek Jeter."
Here is the lineup Matheny constructed for the NL:
1. Andrew McCutchen, CF
2. Yasiel Puig, RF
3. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
4. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
5. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
6. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
7. Chase Utley, 2B
8. Jonathan Lucroy, C
9. Carlos Gomez, LF
Starting pitcher: Adam Wainwright
And on the American League side ...
1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Mike Trout, LF
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Jose Bautista, RF
6. Nelson Cruz, DH
7. Adam Jones, CF
8. Josh Donaldson, 3B
9. Salvador Perez, C
Starting pitcher: Felix Hernandez, RHP