NLCS MVP Michael Wacha, Carlos Beltran, and Matt Carpenter spoke with the media after winning the National League championship on Friday night. After missing out on the World Series in three previous chances, Beltran is about to play his first.
Q. Before we get to the obvious question, I wanted to ask you about Matt Carpenter’s 11‑pitch at‑bat. It seemed like that kind of started it?
CARLOS BELTRAN: You’re right about that. I think that at‑bat right there, just he was able to put himself in a position where he was going to get a good pitch. He was fighting the fastball and fighting the slider, and at the same time for me hitting behind him, all that did was allow me to see a lot of pitches also. I mean, when you’re capable of fighting an at‑bat that long, it was great to watch him just being able to come through.
When I went to hit, I just told myself just try to look for a pitch, and thank God I got a good pitch. I was able to shoot it by the second base.
Q. What does it mean to you emotionally, everything, to finally say you’re headed to your first World Series to win a League Championship Series now at the age of 36 for you?
CARLOS BELTRAN: You know what for me, I’m very fortunate to be in this position, and thank God for the opportunity. Without Him, it couldn’t happen.
So, like I said, I’m just feel that as a team we fought so hard. During the regular season, we went through ups and downs and we stood together. We did it as a team, actually. It was fun just being able to watch the veteran guys try to help the younger guys. Being able to see the younger guys coming along and just coming here and do their job. It feels great.
Q. Just take us through the first few moments after the final out was recorded? What was going through your mind? What were the first few things that you were doing and just what those moments were like for you?
CARLOS BELTRAN: Well, you know what, first of all, thank God for the opportunity. I thought about my family, my dad, my mom, my wife and my kids, all the people that have been around me, and know how much I wanted to get to this point. My country, my hometown. So it’s a great feeling to be able to come through and to be able to have this opportunity.
Q. When you speak about this being a team achievement, what does it mean to you to be a member of the St. Louis Cardinals? What does the Cardinals mean to you?
CARLOS BELTRAN: Well, you know what, this organization‑‑ I played for this organization for a long time. And this organization has always been an organization where they have a lot of tradition and being able to put good teams out there, being able to put players in that know how to play the game of baseball and play the right way. So being able to be part of this organization for these two years has been great. It’s allowed me to understand how they do things and how it’s allowed me to understand to get to know the guys, the organization and the way they think, and the way they handle their situation. They’re very professional in the way they do things.
Q. Why the success against Clayton Kershaw? Four straight times you beat probably the best pitcher in baseball. And part two, the guy sitting next to you, what can you say about Michael Wacha and his postseason performance?
CARLOS BELTRAN: First of all, I want to talk about him. I think what he has done since he joined the ballclub, all he has done is given us an opportunity to win ballgames. You guys are going to hear from this kid for a long time, because he’s a guy that since he joined the ballclub, he’s very quiet. He’s very determined. Every time he takes the mound, he wants to go out there, and he wants to do well. He works so hard to get to this point.
At the same time, I look at him and I look at a guy that wants to be in these type of games, these type of situations. It’s been great to watch him coming up and develop himself to the pitcher that he is right now.
Clayton Kershaw, one of the best pitchers in the game. No doubt about that. Today we were looking just to put good at‑bats. I think the first time that we faced him, he was very tough. He was locating well. This time he was a little bit off, but that doesn’t mean anything. He’s still a competitor. I guess we fought. We put ourselves in hitter’s counts. We were able to come through as a team. So every time you’re capable of doing that early in the games, you’re going to have those opportunities.
Q. (Question in Spanish)?
CARLOS BELTRAN: (Answer in Spanish).
Q. You’ve been able to be a great postseason player in past years. How have you changed in terms of maybe using the head as much as the physical skills at age 36 to make the big plays that you do still at your stage?
CARLOS BELTRAN: Well, you know what? When you play in postseason games, I think experience always gives you an opportunity for you to feel a little more comfortable. But that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t go to the field and perform and do your job as a team. Like I say, I’m very fortunate just being able to play good in October. Like I said, just being able to come through for the team and offensively or defensively, it really means a lot.
I think we all want to get it done. Sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes it works. But at the end of the day, what is important in October is that we don’t think about individual statistics. We think about how we can go out there as a team and win. That’s what it’s all about.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Michael.
Q. I’m curious, just even beyond the typical competition, when there are so many great young pitchers in the Cardinals system and they’re around you, do you feel pushed a little bit in terms of competing with them as well to sort of assert where your spot is in the rotation?
MICHAEL WACHA: Oh, yeah, definitely. We have a ton of rookie pitchers up here, and it’s fun to watch them. I was down in Memphis and some other rookie pitchers got called up here, they start off the record here, and they were performing at a high level. They weren’t letting a lot of things affect them.
So whenever I got called up, I felt like I had to hang with these guys. So I was talking to them, how they went about their business, how they handled different situations. I think it kind of helped me out quite a bit.
Q. You were able to take down Clayton Kershaw twice in a row. You’ve had four outstanding performances in the last four games, including the one‑hitter against Washington. What’s really been working for you so well? What was it like facing Kershaw tonight in a potential game‑clinching game that’s going to send you guys now to the World Series?
MICHAEL WACHA: Yeah, any time you’re facing Clayton Kershaw, you’re probably going to have to match zeros against him. You know, our guys just battled out there today. It was so much fun to watch in the dugout there. You know, whenever they put up those nine runs that just makes my job so much easier. I was able to just go out there and try to fill up the zone and try not to walk anybody or, you know, just not really play around with them kind of deal.
But he’s an unbelievable pitcher. I mean, it’s unbelievable being able to have the opportunity to face him in this kind of game.
I guess a lot of the talk goes back to last year whenever they were up 3 games to 1, and how they kind of let it slip away. But I kind of took it in my own hands where I wasn’t going to let that happen this year. Our offense didn’t let it happen either. It was a lot of fun to watch them out there perform like they did.
Q. Can you just talk about the four‑game stretch that you’ve had? Is this the best four‑game stretch you’ve had in your career?
MICHAEL WACHA: Oh, yeah, definitely. These past four games, I just try to come up to the park every day, get my work in, and try to approach every game just the same. Just try to not let the moment get too big on you kind of deal. I think a lot of the veteran guys kind of helped me be able to adjust to those kind of games and being able to talk to those guys. It’s just really helped me in that sense.
Q. When you talk about not letting the moment get too big, are you naturally not an anxious person? Or do you have to do something to get away from that feeling?
MICHAEL WACHA: Anxiety is definitely there. Whenever I showed up at the park today at 3:30, I was ready for the game to start. I hate sitting around waiting for it to start. I think you’ve just got to use your nerves. You’ve got to use the anxiety to your advantage and let that help you perform out there and be able to control those things.
THE MODERATOR: Matt Carpenter is also here, so questions for either gentleman.
Q. We’ve had Carlos Beltran sit here and his career as long as it is, and it’s his first time to get to play in a World Series. From your perspective sitting here at this time in your career as it just gets underway, can you appreciate how important and how big it is that you get this chance this quickly?
MICHAEL WACHA: Oh, it’s huge. Whenever we clinched a spot in the postseason, they were talking in the clubhouse about how not everyone gets this opportunity. We have so many rookies on our team that we just try and embrace everything kind of deal, trying not to take it for granted and really just take advantage of this opportunity that we’re in, and make a push here in the World Series. It’s been a lot of fun.
But I mean, Carlos, he’s a heck of a player. He’s out there running balls down, diving, knocks guys in, RBIs, hits, everything. I mean, it’s fun to have him on our team.
Q. Matt, I asked Carlos this as well, but if you wouldn’t mind from a teammate’s perspective, just commenting on Michael’s performances. Both these games, the Pittsburgh game, even going back as far as the Washington game. As well as the fact that you were able to put this 3‑1 series away and how different that feeling is for you guys compared to what happened last season?
MATT CARPENTER: Well, he was incredible. You think about who he was doing it against, you’re talking Clayton Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. For him to show up and pitch, pitch for pitch with him throughout this whole deal and keep us in these games, we ended upbeating them twice. It’s amazing.
With such little experience, that really doesn’t matter for him, because he goes out there with so much confidence, he goes out there and pitches. Him and Yadier have a game plan, and he goes out and executes it. He’s been fun to watch, and we’re looking forward to giving him a chance to pitch in the World Series.
Q. Matt, that at‑bat seemed to transform the entire game. It was kind like of a classic Cardinal grind at‑bat kind of thing. What was your mindset going in there?
MATT CARPENTER: Like I said earlier, he’s the best pitcher in baseball. He’s a real tough at‑bat. He got ahead of me like he almost always does. I just was‑‑ I struck out my first at‑bat. And honestly, when he got two strikes on me the second at‑bat, my mindset immediately changed. I’m not striking out. I’m not going to let him strike me out right here. I’m going to put this ball in play even if I roll it over and hit it softly. He kept making good pitches and I kept fouling them off. I don’t remember how many it was, but just kept fouling them off. Then the crowd started getting into it a little bit, and I was able to get the count back to 2‑2. And he finally made a mistake with the slider out over the plate, and I was able to hit it and got into scoring position with the double.
Then from then on, really, you’ve got to give all the credit to our offense. They did such a great job not letting up. Carlos got the big hit, and then the inning kind of went from there. That ended up being the difference in the game.
Q. Don Mattingly was in earlier and he kind of alluded to the fact that he thought your at‑bat may have kind of taken the wind a little bit out of Kershaw. Did you get that impression? I know you’re standing on second base, but what was your feeling after the at‑bat overall when you saw Kershaw at that point?
MATT CARPENTER: That was such a battle. I know he was as locked in as I was throughout that at‑bat. He’s such a competitor. When you have two guys going at it like that and fighting each other, and he’s made so many good pitches, he just continued to make good pitches and I would foul it off. And I know that’s frustrating for a pitcher.
I was able to continue to do it, and found a way to get a decent swing off and got the base hit. That can be kind of a‑‑ you guys know, you saw it. It can be a frustrating thing.
Then he had to regroup and pitch to Carlos, and he was able to get a big hit. And I think the inning got away from him a little bit after that.
Like I said, you have to give credit to our offense, because they continued to grind out at‑bats on him, they didn’t make it easy on him, continued to put pressure on him, and we ended up having a big inning.