With an open day in the NLCS schedule against the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny addressed the media during a press conference this afternoon. The Cardinals manager decided to give the team a day off today following the flight from LA.
Q. Throughout this season, especially when Wacha came back, he had an opportunity to face teams in a tight window a couple different times. I wondered if you thought that was good preparation for a short series like this where he’s going to face a team? Also, if you have just seen him improve and evolve even as October has gone on here with his stuff?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, I think his stuff has been pretty consistent since he came back. I think when we first saw him, we brought him up early in the year, it wasn’t quite what we had seen in spring training, but ever since then he got his timing right. He mixed in his breaking ball a little bit better. But as far as being able to face these guys, there is really no advantage one way or the other. They’ve seen him now. He’s seen them. It’s just a matter of making those adjustments and being able to change your game plan.
But I’ve seen some things with him that is pretty exciting to see about how he can change and how he’s been able to use a couple of his pitches differently in tough counts where he’s real hard to pattern. And I think that ability to stay flexible like that can help you in this time of year.
Q. After the result yesterday, how encouraged were you by the signs of life from your offense, especially the top part of your lineup that had trouble getting hits early?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, I think we’re seeing some better swings overall. But as we’ve watched this team all season long, you can kind of sense when things are getting ready to click. We’re getting a little closer there. It’s been nice to have the pitching that we’ve had to be in the position that we’re in right now without that offense. But that offense has been something that’s been, I believe, a big, defining portion of our club this season.
So, yeah, we’re excited to see the top of the lineup get a bunch of hits, but also seeing some big hits from some guys down at the bottom. I’m seeing some better at‑bats overall. But it just comes down to getting that big hit, and that’s the one that really eluded us yesterday.
Q. As you know, Wacha’s roots are in Texas high school and collegiate pitching. I just wondered if in your career have you ever noticed a common trait from pitchers from Texas? Is there anything that distinguishes them from their peers?
MIKE MATHENY: No, I don’t think there is one thing over another. I mean, obviously, the caliber of baseball that you’re going to find in Texas and just the sheer numbers of kids that are playing in the game, it packs a great reputation of being able to put out some kids out that can pitch and perform.
But you just look at our club, you have two with Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha, kids that have come along and made a name for themselves, part of it is the competition level in the south in general and certainly in Texas where these kids in high school are seeing some of the best players in the country. I think it’s just the number of good teams, number of good players, and the amount of pride I think the state takes in putting out quality baseball players.
Q. Did you value the rest over another workout today? What went into that decision?
MIKE MATHENY: I think just kind of watching everybody. We’ve had a lot of these workouts lately where we come in and get a little work done and get out. I also never take anything that we have as far as information‑‑ you look how we flew out to LA. We had a workout and everything looked kind of off. I think sometimes that flight‑‑ I can feel it today, going back and forth, I can feel a little bit different, even a little jet lag. So hopefully taking the day just to shut down.
These guys aren’t going to forget how to hit and forget how to throw in one day’s time. I think a day to shut down, kind of digest yesterday and the day before, and the day before that, and kind of go through their minds that these are adjustments that we need to make in order to make a good two‑game push here.
Q. In the past few days, there has been some discussion about the cultural differences between the two organizations. You guys are a little more straightforward. You’re a little more businesslike. The Dodgers are a team that wears their emotions on their sleeve. We’ve seen it. We saw it yesterday when Adrian Gonzalez made the Mickey Mouse ears after hitting his first home run, then after the game Don Mattingly talking about how the Dodgers are America’s team and everybody wants to see a 7th game. Even the St. Louis fans want to see a 7th game. Do you think they’re doing that to try to get under your players’ skin a little bit, and do you worry it might be having a little bit of an effect on you guys?
MIKE MATHENY: We’ve been very consistent with how we think about this, and we understand it’s our responsibility to take care of ourselves. That is a big responsibility and we’ve got a lot to take care of. We’re going to stay there. Other teams are going to do whatever they need to do in order to prepare themselves and have their guys ready. As far as evaluating clubs, once again, it’s our job to evaluate ourselves on a daily basis to make sure we’re going about it the way we want to go about it. It’s not our right and responsibility to dictate how other teams go about theirs.
As far as getting under our guys’ skin, our guys want to compete. We’re not out there to make friends. We’re not out there to do anything except win. That is our job. We’ll go about it the way we can, and that’s going to be our goal and our initiative.
Q. How much is it talk about the fact you guys finished strong, had good at‑bats and put up a couple runs and how that can carry over, how much is that just outside talk and how much of that is reality in terms of what you can take into game six?
MIKE MATHENY: I believe in momentum. I believe that we had the momentum shift yesterday. We had the bases loaded and nobody out. We had some positive things going and it turned real fast. So you’re always trying to ride that momentum somewhat. But it does come down to the next day and the next opportunity to move the momentum forward.
I think there are a lot of positive things there. Whenever you have a guy come through in the big situation, he’s going to have more confidence. Whenever you realize that you get to a closer or you make a push in the late innings, that is always a reinforcement to what your club has the ability to do, the kind of heart and character they have. It reinforces that thing we’ve been talking about for the last couple months about our club and our ability to not give in and just keep pushing.
I think there are a lot of positives to be taken out of that. It comes down to wins and losses, and we lost 6‑4. It wasn’t enough. Our guys know that. But we also aren’t afraid to look at some of the positives that came out of it, and hopefully that helps us push in the next game.
Q. Yesterday in the clubhouse Allen Craig said that he hoped to face pitchers today. I was wondering if you knew what happened and what pitchers he faced? If there was an update there?
MIKE MATHENY: No, we’re actually going to push that back to tomorrow. We’ll go out early tomorrow and have some live pitches thrown to Allen, and watch him continue to take steps forward. Just really felt like today would be a good day for guys to shut down and stay away from the yard.
We’ve spent a lot of time together. We’ve spent a lot of time at the field, and a day like this hopefully will be something that the guys have a little extra rejuvenation from.
Q. Who will he face, if you don’t mind? Will he face one of the guys who is off the roster?
MIKE MATHENY: He’ll face some off‑the‑roster guys and a rehab guy that needs to throw a little bit and he’ll be facing as well and Jaime Garcia.
Q. As the postseason goes and marches on, the pressure ramps up, but what do you expect to see from Wacha tomorrow? He seems like he’s been impervious thus far?
MIKE MATHENY: I just expect Michael to go out and do what he’s done just like the rest of our guys. Make it a pretty simple plan. Stick with what you’ve done all along the way, and don’t ignore and don’t deny the excitement, the extra energy. I think there are some guys who have been able to embrace that and use that to their advantage. I think Michael’s one of those that’s been able to do it so far. Hopefully he just continues to go out and try to make the adjustments that are necessary. I know he’s been paying close attention to this series and how the guys are going about their at‑bats, and we don’t want him to do anything more than what he’s already done.