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PostCards: Mike Matheny talks NLCS Game 3


St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny addressed the media prior to Game 3.
Oct 13, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (22) during a press conference on the day before game three of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Image Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Q. With two such productive offenses, can pitching continue to dominate this series?

MIKE MATHENY: Well, you look at the guys who have been pitching and realize you’re going to see them again and we’re hoping from our side to continue to see it. With our ace going today, we like kind of the tempo that’s been set, and hopefully he keeps it up. But it’s been very well‑pitched on both sides.

Q. You guys had an advantage in the NLCS last year and ended up not working out. What did you take from that this winter, and what can be learned about playing ahead in this type of series from what went on last year?

MIKE MATHENY: I really don’t think last year we were a victim of complacency or the guys took anything for granted. I don’t think really that’s what happened. We just continued to play the game, and they played a little better than we did. That’s all it was. The guys kept going about it, and they kept working. They kept pressing. I don’t think they were pressing too much. We just got into a situation where we couldn’t put it away.

We have a sense of urgency, I believe, all the time. There’s really nothing different to do. Now, if guys started backing off, it would be very contrary to anything we’ve seen all season long, and we would make a point to try and right the ship.

But right now, it’s just play the game, keep going, keep your head down. But what we learned last year is just how fragile this is and how quickly it can get away from you.

Q. Lance has had a lot of experience in big games before, not just professionally, but even in his amateur years. How big a positive is that? How much of an advantage can that be for a guy?

MIKE MATHENY: I think the experience does help. I don’t think it’s the end of the story. I think it’s an advantage if you use it properly and learn from it, just like we were talking about our team last year. We learn just how quick it can go away, and I think Lance has learned what it feels like to be in those situations and what he needs to do to be effective. Maybe some of the things he wishes he could have done differently at times.

So experience is one of your greatest teachers if you’re playing really close attention, and Lance is a guy that’s paying attention. He’s a competitor. His stuff is right. When he’s throwing the ball well, it’s fun to watch him. So hopefully he goes out there with a lot of confidence.

Q. Is your lineup the same as it was against the left‑hander the other day?

MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, same lineup.

Q. Through this year whether it was Shelby or Lance, talked about young guys and the quest to be efficient as much as anything with their pitches and how that may not come this year but come over time. I wonder in Lance’s case if he hasn’t gone that deep into his postseason starts last year and this year, if that’s just the postseason or how if that’s how his approach to pitching translates to the postseason.

MIKE MATHENY: I think more than anything, it’s a small sample size. I think time this is year where he’s been efficient and aggressive. He’s a guy that isn’t, typically just from his style, hasn’t been able to pitch deep into game’s very often.

But he’s able to get us into the later innings with the lead. He and Shelby both have kind of gone back and forth. And Joe Kelly was another that they’re all trying to figure out what kind of pitcher am I going to be? Am I going to be a guy that pitches to contact and uses my defense? Or am I going to be a guy that uses 96, 95 and strikes guys out?

Unfortunately, these guys come up through their system and their amateur career blowing the ball by everybody. I imagine that’s pretty fun on the mound. That begins to kind of develop and define how they pitch. But they realize that does lead to a lot of foul balls, especially a guy like Shelby that we saw first time through get a lot of swings and misses, and pretty soon guys start making adjustments when you get in the top of the zone as much.

So all these guys are constantly learning, first and foremost, they’ve got to go out and use their strengths and then try to tweak them to the point they can stay out there longer. You stay out there deeper in the game, and you’ve got a better chance to help us win.

Q. Is that less important in a postseason start than getting deep in the games because of the nature of the games or the availability of the bullpen this time of the year?

MIKE MATHENY: We need to be very clear when we’re talking about being efficient and going deep in the games, that’s kind of talk that we have afterwards. This isn’t something that we’re going in with a game plan you need to get us to this inning. It’s completely opposite of everything that we teach and believe around here. We believe in making one pitch at a time, make a good, quality pitch, have a good plan, have an idea what you’re going to do, and realize where you are in the game. If you consciously put all those things in play, execute the pitch, then this other stuff takes care of itself.

But when you look at the body of work afterwards and realize what could I have done differently? How could I have been able to stay around a little longer, instead of in the sixth inning looking up and is having 115 pitches, you start to figure out how to help these young pitchers improve on that. But the game plan is go out and make quality pitches every time you get the ball in your hand, one at a time, and keep it a simple formula.

Q. How have you seen Carlos Martinez mature through this year in terms of both harnessing emotions, harnessing his stuff? Do you look at that game in Cincinnati, that long extra‑inning game as a turning point for him and trusting what he can do?

MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, he did a great job in that game and in an intense situation. We like putting our young players in there. Sometimes we’re kind of forced to like we were that night and watch how they handle it.

As far as emotions go, Carlos has been very consistent. I think he’s done a nice job for a young player being pretty consistent on the mound. That hasn’t really been an issue. Where he’s probably improved the most is just his ability to make pitches and use his secondary pitches. Another guy‑‑ talk about loose and free and easy and able to hit a hundred. It’s pretty amazing how the ball jumps out of his hand. He can fall in love with that pitch, but he’s also seen that hitters at this level can hit those if you don’t have something else. He’s done a really good job.

Derek Lilliquist and Blaise Ilsley have done a nice job helping him understand how to use that; and obviously, Yadier behind the plate to give him a good idea when to throw what. But overall, he’s matured a lot as a pitcher this year, and there are even better things ahead for him.