PostCards: Mike Matheny talks prior to 2014 NLCS Game 1

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St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny addressed the media prior to the start of the 2014 NLCS against the San Francisco Giants.

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Q. Mike, for you, fundamentally as a manager, what’s different about managing in the postseason as opposed to the regular season?

MIKE MATHENY: Um, you know, really the difference comes down to a lot of these days off and how we can use our bullpen. There’s always that same message that we’re trying to communicate inside, which is, try to play the games the same all the way through, and when you get here, it’s not that much of a shock and surprise.

But with the days off, it’s an advantage for us to be able to use guys maybe a little differently than we have, which, in turn, has us use our starters a little differently.

In general, we’re trying to go about it the same way. I think if we start trying to radically change the way we go about‑‑ whether it’s defending certain plays or doing things outside of the norm, that would typically lead to a direction where our guys wouldn’t be as consistent this time of year. And that’s what got us here, so might as well stick with it.

Q. Mike, you talked at the start of the playoffs about having a break there helped you guys get a little healthier. Has the few days this week added to that or were you in good shape coming in?

MIKE MATHENY: We were in pretty good shape, but I think at this point in the season, any little bit of rest is going to to be an advantage for us. And the guys are coming in and getting their work, so they’re staying sharp. But the rest will help heal up the things that are nagging guys because everybody’s got something.

Oct 7, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (left) greets pitcher Adam Wainwright after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers during game four of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game at Busch Stadium. Image Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Q. Mike, you sort off‑handedly, about your offense in the last series, said something about John Mabry sort of staying the course with these guys. And the outcome in part was your left‑handed hitters destroyed their left‑handed pitchers. I’m wondering if that’s part of what you’re talking about, that process, that tiny little sort of element within a game and how critical that has become for you.

MIKE MATHENY: More than anything, we just look at what has gone on this season and how much has been said about our offense. Very similar group of players that we had a year ago that just were leading in a lot of categories, off the charts in some.

And for whatever reason, this is one of those years where it’s the same group of guys trying to do the exact same thing and working to even get better. It comes easier sometimes than others. And John Mabry seemed to take a lot of heat as we were pushing through the season and some of those results weren’t there, which is really ridiculous.
Fortunately, he stayed with what he knew was right. And the guys continued to work to improve and nobody was doing the major overhauls, like we were talking about, for no reason, just to appease people in the outside.

He stayed the course and kept trying to make the minor adjustments that needed to be made. And in the end what’s this game about? It’s about scoring more runs than the other club and we figured out a way to do that more often than not.

He’s such a valuable part of our group here that whenever I get a chance, I’m going to stick that shot back in there to make sure people hear it, that this guy is a terrific hitting coach and has ton a great job with this club this year.

Q. Mike, this maybe piggybacks on that topic. The evolution of Kolten as a hitter, he’s gone through several phases this year, one included going down to the minors. And from Game 1 of the NLDS to today, he’s starting against the lefty again. What have you seen from him in general, and also against leftys, that will start against him today?

MIKE MATHENY: As you look over his numbers for the season, he’s done a nice job against left‑handers, and we’ve seen periods of time where it looked a little off, and I think that often is related to the fact that they’re not seeing a lot of left‑handed pitching.

When they get to see some consistent left‑handed at‑bats, seems like the effectiveness goes up there a little bit as well. Kolten in his short history here as a professional player had not had that much trouble with a left‑handed pitcher, so it’s a matter of getting him reps. As far as his transition during the season, it wasn’t that different than most young players. Hit a tough spell, and we were fortunate that everybody was in agreement, the best way for him to go figure it out was to go down to AAA and work it out there instead of having to try and work it out here.

He did exactly what we asked him to do and came right back and jumped back in and was a major part of our offense. That’s ideally how you would like to handle it. And he didn’t go down there sulking or doing anything outside of what we asked him to do, Get right, we’ll get you back.

And he believed us and believed in himself and came back and has had a nice run.