Wainwright takes the hill for first time since All-Star Game start

( - Adam Wainwright's attempt at humor during the All-Star Game may have landed him in some hot water, but the Tampa Bay Rays weren't laughing the last time they had to face baseball's current earned run average leader.

Wainwright makes his first start for the St. Louis Cardinals since appearing in last week's Midsummer Classic and it comes on Tuesday in the opener of a two-game set with the visiting Tampa Bay Rays.

The right-handed Wainwright leads the majors with a 1.83 ERA and is tied for the most victories in baseball, posting a 12-4 mark on the season. Those numbers seem to be enough credentials to start last week's All-Star game for the National League, but St. Louis manager Mike Matheny still left some upset picking his own guy over Los Angeles Dodgers hurler Clayton Kershaw.

Wainwright didn't help his cause by giving up three runs in the first inning, a frame that began with him giving up a leadoff double to the New York Yankees' Derek Jeter in his final All-Star Game appearance.

In an interview with the media between innings, Wainwright said -- he claims jokingly -- that he planned on giving Jeter a few "pipe shots" to hit and that caused a social media uproar, especially by those who thought Kershaw should have started the game.

The 32-year-old Wainwright tried to clear up his comments before night's end and Matheny also stuck up for his ace.

"Adam Wainwright went out there to compete and he was excited about the opportunity to try to compete against one of the greatest of all time in our game, and one of the greatest ambassadors this game has ever seen in Derek Jeter," said Matheny. "And nothing but respect for him. Nothing but respect for this game. And all he wanted to do is go out there and put up his best against Jeter.

"Unfortunately, people couldn't pick up the tone, pick up the humor, and ran with it in the exact opposite wrong direction."

Wainwright will try to put all of that behind him tonight and comes in having gone 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA in seven starts since yielding seven runs over 4 1/3 frames of a loss to San Francisco on May 30.

He is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in two previous meetings with the Rays, beating them 1-0 on June 10 with seven scoreless innings. Wainwright scattered seven hits and a pair of walks in the victory.

Jake Odorizzi was on the unlucky end of that pitching matchup for Tampa Bay and rematches with Wainwright tonight in a homecoming. He allowed the lone run of that setback on a homer to Matt Holliday in the sixth inning, the lone blemish over his 7 1/3-inning start.

The 24-year-old rookie next faces St. Louis for the second time in his career and will do so in front of a number of family and friends as he grew up in Highland, Illinois rooting for the Cardinals.

"Just the atmosphere alone will be very cool," Odorizzi said on Tampa Bay's website. "It will be a fun atmosphere and fun game for me in general."

Odorizzi, 24, has won three of his last four decisions overall and has not allowed more than three runs in seven straight outings. He last pitched on July 12 and earned a 10-3 victory over Toronto, improving to 5-8 with a 4.01 ERA on the season.

The Rays have started to come to life with victories in 14 of their last 18 games, while plating 29 runs over a five-game winning streak. They opened the second half with a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins.

"We're definitely hitting better ... working better at-bats, there's much more confidence," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, lost the finale of a three-game set to the Los Angeles Dodgers, entering their off day on Monday tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the NL Central despite only their third loss in 10 games.

Milwaukee then moved a half-game up on idle St. Louis with a win over Cincinnati on Monday.

The Cardinals split a two-game set with the hosting Rays in June and are taking on Tampa Bay in St. Louis for the first time since 2008.