ST. LOUIS -- It's a charade the two have learned to engage in well over the years, with Mike Matheny making the obligatory walk to the mound and Adam Wainwright knowing what it will take to send his manager back to the dugout alone.
Sunday's stroll came in the eighth inning of a tie game, with Wainwright having just allowed a pair of singles with two out. Kevin Siegrist was warm in the 'pen, ready to face the left-handed-hitting Jay Bruce. But at 95 pitches and having allowed just three hits (all singles) since the third inning, Wainwright wanted the chance to quell the threat himself.
"He said, 'Do you feel good?'" Wainwright recalled of the ensuing conversation. "And I said, 'Yes, sir.' He said, 'All right, it's your game. Let's go.' I said, 'I already knew that.'"
"No, I didn't say that," Wainwright said. "But that's what I was thinking."
Matheny knew it, too.
"He was trying not to look at me like I wasn't there," Matheny said. "And [catcher] Yadi [Molina] was, too. They were both kind of running away. I knew they both wanted to let Adam finish that. And I did, too."
"He stuck with me," Wainwright added. "I was grateful for that."
The Cardinals were, too, as Wainwright worked around Bruce and then retired Zack Cozart with the bases full. The Cardinals scored in the bottom half of the frame to assure Wainwright of his second win and a 2-1 team victory.
"It comes down to the fact that your ace is on the mound, and he's been throwing very well," Matheny said. "And I thought in the seventh, he looked as good as he did in the first. At that point, that's the guy we want in the game."
Wainwright became the first Cardinals pitcher to cover eight innings this season, and he was his sharpest yet on Sunday. Admittedly still trying to navigate through some rustiness following an abbreviated spring, Wainwright said he felt more life on his pitches in this, his third start of the year.
"I'll continue to grow in my velocity, and the sharpness of my offspeed breaking ball is getting better at times," Wainwright said. "My breaking ball and cutter are still not where I want them to be. Neither is my fastball location or velocity. We'll just keep building and building and building until we get to where we want to be."
Wainwright's scoreless-inning streak against the Reds ended at 19 2/3 when Brandon Phillips connected for an RBI single in the third. From there, though, the innings turned short. Wainwright made it through the next four frames on 34 pitches. During that stretch, he retired seven hitters on the first or second pitch of an at-bat.
"I've seen him with a lot better stuff than he had today," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "But he sure did manage the strike zone well and just didn't make a lot of mistakes in the middle of the plate. He wasn't as overpowering. His curveball wasn't as hard. His velocity wasn't as high, but he managed the strike zone extremely well and made all the big pitches that he needed to make."