CHICAGO -- Sometimes it's difficult to remember that Adam Wainwright missed all of 2011 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, especially after an impressive Spring Training in which he looked like his old self.
After opening 2012 with two rough starts, the Cardinals right-hander put together another impressive outing Tuesday, tossing six innings of one-run ball and striking out seven.
"His last two outings have been much better," manager Mike Matheny said Tuesday. "He's getting much closer to who Adam wants to be and he's got the ability to fight and make the most out of whatever he has. He looked good tonight and get better when he needed to."
Wainwright had a breakthrough with his curveball during his pregame bullpen session when he altered his grip on the ball. All of a sudden, it clicked for Wainwright, who remembered where he had his hand on the ball at that moment was how he had usually thrown his curveball.
"Along the way I think there'll be more little things like that as I go this year pitching that I'll remember," Wainwright said. "The way I used to do things, or the way I do things now, based on the way I used to do them. There was some things I remembered about the past tonight."
Vintage Wainwright came through in the fourth inning when, after Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair and left fielder Alfonso Soriano led off with a single and double, respectively, Wainwright bore down.
The right-hander struck out Ian Stewart and Darwin Barney before getting Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija to pop up for the third out.
Wainwright said a key in getting out of that fourth inning was locking himself in mentally -- something he prides himself on, but said he has been struggling with this year.
"Especially after that situation with second and third and no outs, I really had to buckle down there," Wainwright said. "Sometimes you need that little eye opener to get you started."
Matheny wants 'human element' to remain
CHICAGO -- The day after two controversial calls played a key part in the Cardinals' 3-2 extra-inning loss to the Cubs, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny revisited those calls, talked about instant replay and said he's happy with umpiring throughout the game.
Tuesday's eventual game-winning run scored after Cubs outfielder Tony Campana was ruled safe stealing second by umpire Bill Welke. Cardinals second baseman Tyler Greene immediately began arguing with Welke as Matheny made his way on the field and was eventually ejected.
Replays showed that Campana never touched the base and, instead, grabbed Greene's shoe.
Cubs right fielder David DeJesus scored the game's first run on another questionable call in the first after he slid to the right of the plate and reached for it while trying to avoid Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. DeJesus was called safe by home-plate umpire Chris Conroy and Matheny came out to argue.
Once again, replays showed DeJesus didn't touch home plate.
"There's nothing you can do. It's a judgment call," Matheny said of the calls Wednesday. "I'll give it to them that both of them were close, but both of them worked against us and both of them really hurt us."
Matheny said he thought the crew working the three-game series between the Cardinals and Cubs was one of the better ones in the league, calling Welke a "good umpire" and describing Conroy as a "very good up-and-coming umpire." Matheny said, for the most part, he has no issues with umpiring throughout the league.
"I do believe there's been more accountability now than there's ever been in the game," Matheny said. "It's as good as it's ever been, in my opinion."
Tuesday's calls brought conversation of instant replay Wednesday, which Matheny said he's an advocate of -- to an extent. He likes what Major League Baseball has done with home run and fair and foul calls, but said he doesn't want to see baseball "computer-run."
"For the game's sake, I don't mind having the human element. I think that's part of it," said Matheny, a former catcher. "There's also an art to that human element when you start getting down to calling balls and strikes. For a guy who made a living trying to make a borderline pitch look good, taking away that is taking away part of my livelihood. That's all part of the game and understanding the human element and trying to manipulate it when you can."
When asked about the possibility of expanding instant replay to plays at the plate, Matheny said, "Where do you draw the line? Because Campana's ended up costing us the game. I just don't know where it would end."
Matheny confident in Cards' mental toughness
CHICAGO -- Consecutive walk-off losses to the Cubs at Wrigley Field gave the Cardinals their first series loss of the season entering Wednesday afternoon's series finale.
And although St. Louis has managed only five and six hits in the first two games, respectively, and scored just two runs each time, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he wasn't worried about his team rebounding from two straight tough losses.
The reason? Because even though the Cardinals ran into two hot starting pitchers in Cubs right-handers Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija, they were still in position to win both games.
Chicago's Joe Mather hit a two-run, game-winning single Monday against closer Jason Motte while, Tuesday, Alfonso Soriano gave the Cubs a comeback win with a game-winning single in the bottom of the 10th.
"They know what it's like to have good runs, they know what it's like to have runs that are not so good. But right now it's not even really a bad run," Matheny said. "They've got to be pretty proud of the way they handled themselves. There's going to be times when the bullpen carries you, there's going to be times when you need more offense, and we were set up pretty good both games. It just didn't turn out right."