PostCards: Mike Matheny talks before NLCS Game 2


St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny addressed the media prior to the start of Game 2 of the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants.

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Q. Talk about your decisions with the line‑up today, moving Jay up.

MIKE MATHENY: It’s basically the line‑up we’ve seen all season long. And obviously from the at‑bats Jon Jay‘s taken, he deserves to be up there in the line‑up. Left, right, either way. But he’s just in a good spot right now. Has been taking good at‑bats all season long, a good offensive year.

Q. Mike, could you share how much consideration was given to maybe giving Oscar a start with lefty‑righty match‑up and shaking things up a little bit.

MIKE MATHENY: We’re not really at that point of needing to shake things up. The game yesterday, we just couldn’t get much offense going. Got through a pretty good game with us.

So we’re sticking with what we use right down the stretch, and defense is a big part of that. And Randal almost made a catch yesterday that could have completely changed that game. We do like the at‑bats that he’s potentially able to put together as well, so not one of these opportunities or times to start making big changes.

But Oscar’s going to stay ready. He could step in at any point if we needed him to, and we know as a pinch‑hitter what he can do for us. And we may need him in a different role, but right now Randal’s doing a great job in the outfield.

Q. Mike, you have spoken often about the resilient nature of your club. How much of that is driven by the individual character? And how much of it is a result of, Hey, we’ve done this before we can do it again.

MIKE MATHENY: I think it’s a combination of both. I think each team needs to see it. It’s not necessarily something you can carry over from previous seasons. I think a team needs to have some of the success late after being down, and that’s something we’ve been able to do.

But I also believe it comes from individuals who believe in themselves and believe in each other. And I think we have all those qualities working for us. And not just the resiliently to come back late in the game, but to let a game like yesterday pass and realize that we have a brand‑new chance today and let’s go out and do something different.

Q. Mike, when you’re talking about Randal, I’m wondering if you can tell us what you knew about him when you got him, when you first saw him in Spring Training, and how did a guy up and down as he was this year emerge as the right fielder in the playoffs?

MIKE MATHENY: Heard of Randal and knew of him as a prospect. And it really wasn’t until we got our eyes on him in Spring Training that we realized really what we had. A guy that has the ability to hit the ball very hard, covers a lot of ground in the outfield. A better defender than what was advertised. Throws the ball well and just all the way around a solid player.

And he has really jumped into taking advantage of the opportunity that was put in front of him. And, you know, you look at what our team’s been able to do this year and how we’ve gotten to the point we are, and a lot of that has to do with the defense and watching runs taken away as much as runs added.

And we believe that he can help both of those columns. But he’s been a great surprise to our organization, and I believe there’s a big upside there.

Q. Mike, what do you think are some of the reasons why number one starters like a Kershaw or Wainwright or even Lester would have trouble at this time of the year?

MIKE MATHENY: I think it’s just going to happen through the course of a long season, you’re going to have those days where it just doesn’t feel right. And we’ve all seen it. And even starters who have gone through a majority of the game and then run into a bump. Adam Wainwright had that through this season. We saw him go real good and then all of a sudden just had a, you know, a couple of starts, a few starts that just didn’t feel right.

He had to work his way through it. And it was about mechanics, it was about feel. It was about arm strength and just being wore down. And you use a guy as much as we’ve used him over the last several years and you’re just going to have some of those days where it doesn’t all click.

But when it does, it’s impressive. And it’s also impressive what they can do when they don’t have their best stuff. And I think all the names you just mentioned, are guys who have proven that when they don’t have it, they keep us in the game. And that’s the most impressive thing.

Because all of these guys are going to go through periods when it’s right, when it’s right they are lights out. It’s the rest of the days, the bulk in the middle, that everything isn’t clicking and they still compete and keep you in the game. That separates them.

Q. Mike, Lance pitched a game in this National League Championship Series two years ago that got away from him, and eventually the series got away from your team. Could you talk about how Lance has matured as a pitcher since then?

MIKE MATHENY: We’ve talked a lot about this and proud of how Lance has continued to push forward in his game ,And really defining himself, you know. I think we forget still that this is a relatively young pitcher. He’s won a lot of games and has pitched some big games, and continues to shine on the big stage.

But he’s really just kind of, I believe this year, really figured out the kind of pitcher he needs to be on a consistent basis. And we’ve talked about his demeanor on the mound. We talked about him harnessing his emotions and being able to stay consistent when things don’t happen. Whether it is calls behind the plate or plays behind him, he has stayed the course and benefited with consistency.

And I would say consistency is probably the one thing that’s been different this year over the years in the past.

Q. Mike, now that you have to win a game at their park to win the series, what are the characteristics of a good road baseball team?

MIKE MATHENY: The same boring thing we say all season long, just play the game. We love being in front of our fans. We love the life in this stadium and obviously having the fans respond when something positive happens for us.

But when it gets to the playoffs, there’s life in every stadium. And it’s hard as a player or a coach not to get caught up in that, and rightfully so. It’s something that the guys are due after a long season to be in this atmosphere. It just doesn’t get any better in the game of baseball.

So when we head there, it’s a great atmosphere in San Fran, just like it is here. And not necessarily as many fans in red hoping that we do well, but nonetheless it brings the best out of guys that compete and that’s what our guys do.

Q. Mike, where is Marco Gonzales made the most improvement in your eyes since you first saw him take the start that day in Colorado?

MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, Marco, when we first saw him, was I’d say a two‑dimensional pitcher with fastball on one side of the plate and a very good change‑up. And Derek Lilliquist and Brian Eversgerd did a good job when we sent Marco down. Putting a little movement on the fastball both ways, a little cut and sink, trusting his curveball more and not being afraid to throw a left‑hander a change‑up. And it really opened the plate for him.

And Marco’s, you could tell even watching these few games, the presence he has, the confidence he has. But he’s just not as predictable when he has more weapons. And he’s just going to continue. It’s amazing how quickly he picked up on those pitches and how well he executes even on a bigger stage.

So it’s been fun to watch him progress and the guy knows how to pitch and he knows how to get outs.

Q. I don’t know if Marco’s played catch already and you had a chance to talk to him, but what would you anticipate his viability for today?

MIKE MATHENY: You know, if you get to this time of the year, these guys are usually available. So, yeah, you know that the typical answers we go listen to how they feel, once they go play catch and play long toss. We talk with the medical staff who’s always trying to figure out if there’s anything showing, a weakness.

But he’s been feeling really good. We got him up two days in a row. The first time he has done that in a long time and responded really well. And he’s also a controlled‑style pitcher. He’s not a violent, mechanical pitcher, which tends to lean in the direction of him being more durable and bounce back a little quicker.

Q. Mike, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it was Marco that got up to warm‑up first yesterday. Was there a scenario where Michael would have been involved, Michael Wacha would have been involved in that game or are you saving him for another type of role?

MIKE MATHENY: The same role we talked about really since the beginning. Yeah, we did get Marco up and most of that is due to the fact that he’s been the guy we’ve gone to in those situations recently. He’s thrown more often. A little sharper right now I would imagine. I believe if we give Michael an opportunity, he’s going to be sharp as well. But going into this realizing that we would need potentially an arm at the back end and that’s the role that Michael’s behind of fallen into. You never know if you’re going to need that.

A lot of times you’re hoping you don’t. You can just run through the normal pen and have a long start from your starters. But Michael gives us definitely some flexibility and we can use him in a different role. But right now that’s pretty valuable to us knowing that we can be quick, like we were last night.

We ran through quite a few of our relievers trying to keep us in the game and it leaves a huge need in the end in case we come back and tie the game.

Q. Wondering how Adam felt overnight. And do you have any questions about him, when his turn comes again?

MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, we just talked and he was very adamant that this is the best he’s felt after a start in a long time, which is great news. And, you know, we’re beyond the just tell me what I want to hear kind of garbage and this was sincere. He was excited for the fact that his arm felt as good as it felt, so that’s encouraging to hear and I can’t wait to watch him pitch again.

Q. Just to follow‑up, Mike, so is there any chance that he would not start gave five based on what you know now?

MIKE MATHENY: With what I know now, I’d say no. But we are always flexible and waiting to see. But this is our ace. We’re not here now if we don’t have him. When he feelings right, and sometime it is goes from start to start. When he feels right, we want him on the mound as much as anybody in the game.