St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny addressed the media prior to the start of Game 2 between the Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2014 National League Division Series.
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Q. This might be kind of a weird question to start with, but you’re now a couple wins away from going to the NLCS three times in three seasons as manager. Obviously, you’ve found some sort of formula that works. Can you talk a little bit about what maybe makes you different from other managers, why you’ve been so successful?
MIKE MATHENY: I would say the formula is all about talented players. I walked into a situation, a team that just won the World Series, so obviously there was a lot going on around here before I showed up. A great culture put in place already.
And just trying to keep that moving forward, figure out how we can improve. Get special players with the right kind of makeup, it’s a pretty powerful combination.
Q. Statistically it looks like Lance Lynn throws more fastballs than just about any other starter. How is he able to be so successful using that fastball such a high percentage of the time?
MIKE MATHENY: I think there’s different styles of fastball and Lance has the ability to put quite a bit of sink, and it’s a late heavy sink. So that usually is a little deceptive when those stats are thrown out there.
It’s not just a straight heater that you’re seeing on a consistent basis, because anybody in the league can put good wood on that. But Lance mixes up between the heavy sink and then a hard four‑seamer and then cuts the ball as well. And all of those are pretty high in velocity, which sometimes just get read as a fastball.
But he mixes those up, he’s able to hit both sides, he elevates at times, makes good pitches in the bottom of the zone. And when you can do that, it gives you a repertoire of about six different pitches just from manipulating the one fastball.
But he’s improved with his secondary pitches as well and there’s certain lineups where he’s used it considerably more than others.
But, it all comes down to, just about every starter you’re going to see in this league, they have to establish their fastball and then once they get on it, then you make your changes. If they’re not on your fastball, no sense in really trying to overthink it.
Q. When reporters are asking questions about whether or not your team is stealing signs after a game like yesterday, is that an insult, is that a compliment to your hitter’s ability; how do you react to that?
MIKE MATHENY: No, that would be an insult. Yeah. Absolutely.
Our guys go about their at‑bats like pros and there’s a lot of things that are going to be said from a lot of different people, and that’s all it is. It’s just rumor and right now it could just be a distraction. We go about our business the way we go about it. Whatever’s going to be said is going to be said.
Q. Any word from the league, curious if they poked their head in and said anything about what may be going on between these two teams going forward? Occasionally they will do that. And also the tape showed that Yadi pushed, brushed something the umpire. I’m curious if anything had come of that too.
MIKE MATHENY: We heard a little bit from the league. Mostly about players that aren’t on the active roster and involvement, being on the field. Those sort of things. Just some simple reminders about how things are supposed to operate when you have a larger roster than what’s typical.
The other aspect, we haven’t had direct conversations about anything that happened yesterday.
I do know, and I appreciate the fact that the umpires understand the intensity of a situation like that and there’s a bunch of people, and when emotions are running high, it’s just people and you don’t really see exactly who it is and what’s going on around you when you’re kind of being bumped and pushed.
So, fortunately, we didn’t see anything come from that and fortunately also I think cooler heads prevailed yesterday overall. But this is an intense series. We have got players with a lot of emotion, we don’t want them playing otherwise. We just trust these guys are going to act in a way they think is right.
Q. If I counted correctly, you guys used seven of your eight relievers yesterday. So I thought it would be only fair to allow you to say “I told you so” after all the questions you fielded about the eight bullpen and where does that leave you today? And do you think the layoff harmed Wainwright?
MIKE MATHENY: No, I think Adam needed that, just going off of his recommendation. As soon as we got to that situation we were in Arizona and hopefully trying to finish up clinching the Central, kind of put it in his court, and it was very clear that if he could have the rest, he needed it. Which just tells you what he’s been pitching with. Because this guy, he loves to pitch, never afraid of work. But when he answers like that, there’s usually something going on.
He’s been fighting through some arm issues here for quite awhile. And he won’t get up here, never use that as an excuse, but the guys in that clubhouse know that he’s been grinding.
As far as the other thing goes, I never tell you guys “I told you so.”
Q.You want to. You really want to.
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, yeah, that’s true, I do want to.
But you just never know how this is going to play out. And we didn’t expect, who would have expected we were having to pull Adam out early in the game and start using guys. We really weren’t kind of just using them up. We needed to pull out players and pitchers that we needed to in the middle of the game last night. And it did leave us down to having one name left on that list and he would have had to pitch until it was over. We were very comfortable with that as well.
Q. How was Lackey’s arrival received at the trade deadline and how has he been for you guys and is he what you expected when you got him?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, we were very happy to bring him into our club. We had a real good idea what we were going to get. A veteran presence, a guy who knows what he’s doing, knows how to go about and use his stuff. And just another starter to be a leadership, be in a leadership role and a voice for the rest of our staff. And he’s been all of the above. He’s come out and pitched well, he’s competed and kept us in games, and he’s a gamer. He’s a competitor. He’s a guy that we like to watch compete, especially on this kind of stage.
Q. I don’t know what your thought was before the game yesterday, but based on what you read from Waino last night, would that categorically preclude you from using him, in a game any Game 4 scenario?
MIKE MATHENY: I never want to hem ourselves in here and say that we won’t do something, but I think with what we saw yesterday and how hard he’s had to push so far down the stretch here, I think it would be a pretty good stretch to see him go on short rest.
But stranger things have happened and we trust him as much as we trust anybody on our club to be a real good evaluator of himself and know when he needs extra time or if he’s ready to go.
So, I wouldn’t rule it out, but at this point I would say it’s not highly likely.
Q. This will be Kolten Wong‘s first post‑season start, but also his first post‑season appearance since he was picked off to end the game in the World Series. We talked about how he takes those moments to heart. How do you think he reacts to that and do you think it also helps as motivation for him this season?
MIKE MATHENY: What we got from that last year is just how much this means to him. He’s a young player, came into a big situation, being on this stage; and we like throwing him into that situation, just like we enjoyed watching Marco Gonzales get out there and use this as an opportunity, not just to help us, but also grow individually.
Kolten’s done that. He’s grown through this season, we have seen a lot more consistency. But these guys, just like we talked about the emotion and the intensity and the passion that we see from guys yesterday as the benches cleared, they have emotion and passion, too, when things don’t necessarily go right.
I think that’s just something we don’t want to take out of them, just try to harness it to the point where they can be consistent.
We have seen Kolten make some huge strides there where maybe a play didn’t go right defensively, he walks into the box and he’s able to turn the page and really separate and go about and have a good strong game for us after something didn’t go quite his way. But that just comes in time.
Q. What thoughts, if any, do you have on Yasiel Puig‘s mid at‑bat tendencies, he tends to step out of the box a lot. Mattingly was joking, saying that MLB is probably focusing on him as one of the guys to speed up the pace of the game. Do you think that can get pitchers out of their rhythm at all and overall what thoughts do you have about that?
MIKE MATHENY: I have no thoughts on that. Pace of game is not anywhere near our train of thought right now. We’ll let the league take care of that. But, yeah, there’s certain players that have their kind of routine and if they’re in the box too long it gets uncomfortable and they step out. We have that all the way across the league.
Q. Going back to John Lackey, I don’t know how much you saw him at different phases during his career, but how has he changed or evolved as a pitcher?
MIKE MATHENY: We see him as a guy that just makes pitches now. Early on we saw that hard stuff whenever he wanted it, to be able to get away with more mistakes. Guys who continue to have success, even looking at an Adam Wainwright as we watched him earn the Pitcher of the Month for September, he wasn’t doing it with 95, he was doing it mostly with an 88 to 91 and locating it and changing speeds and elevations and expanding the zone and that’s what the real good pitchers do and that’s what John Lackey’s done since he’s been here.
He rears back and he has that velocity when he wants it, but he doesn’t rely on it all the time. It comes down to just pitching smart and we have seen him be that guy that we knew, a guy we had to watch last year do it to us and he’s been able to have the success for a long time, because he knows how to use his stuff.
Q. Could you describe what Randal’s walk in that 7th inning did for y’all and how important that was and maybe even lost in the shuffle and even having him take that at‑bat after he came up sort of as a guy you would go to against lefties and what that says about his development.
MIKE MATHENY: Randal’s taken advantage. He’s finished the season, the regular season very strong and taken some good at‑bats against right‑handers and being able to just kind of keep things going, after Matt had such a great at‑bat, I mean that’s a huge, you don’t want to be that rally killer. And Randal put together a quality at‑bat that brought up Matt Holliday so he could do what he does best and got another big hit.
But Randal’s one of those players that I don’t think many people have heard much about, I think they’re going to continue to hear about him, one, because of skill set he has, but, two, just the makeup and this guy’s relentless already, he’s playing close attention to our veterans and how hard they work, he just goes about the game the right way. You mix that with what he does on the talent side, both offensively and defensively, and on the bases and he’s going to be an exciting player to watch for awhile.