The St. Louis Cardinals don’t seem too concerned about their current predicament, even on the verge of elimination.
The status of their catcher — and heart and soul — is uncertain, the Cubs offense is red hot and Wrigley Field sounds more like a rock concert than a baseball game. But none of the Cardinals wavered late Monday night after an 8-6 loss to the Cubs in Game 3 of the National League Divisional Series.
Veteran John Lackey pitches next for St. Louis, which trails the best-of-five series 2-1. He’ll face the Cubs’ Jason Hammel in Game 4 at 3:37 p.m. on Tuesday.
“I like our odds when our backs are against the wall,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “This is the kind of team that we've had all season long, regardless of what anybody else thinks, regardless of odds, regardless of who we're stacked upagainst.”
Don’t mistake their swagger for stupidity — the Cardinals realize how tall a task they face. It’d be hard to ignore the six home runs their pitchers allowed to six different Cubs hitters on Monday night. They’re also uncertain about catcher Yadier Molina, who re-aggravated a thumb injury during a fourth inning at-bat and was lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth.
But they still possess the confidence only a 100-win season in baseball’s toughest division can produce.
“I love us,” said Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward, who homered and doubled in four at-bats. “We don’t ever stop. Ahead or behind, we don’t ever stop playing the game. We’re going to put this one behind us just like the first game we won and just like we did (Saturday) when we lost.”
They also have experience to lean on.
“It never hurts,” pitcher Adam Wainwright said.
While experiences means squat if they don’t execute on Tuesday, Wainwright thinks it can help Cardinals players tune out the noise. This isn’t the first time the Cardinals have faced adversity. Though their season could end within 18 hours, Wainwright said his teammates don’t feel any panic.
“I don’t feel like we have to play harder than we’ve played all year right now,” Wainwright said. “We’ve been in this situation before. We know we have to come out and play a good ballgame. When you simplify things like we can here — we don’t worry about the situation, the games, up or down, we’re going to come out and execute. And if everybody comes out and executes tomorrow, we’re going to be just fine.”
Matheny liked the way the Cardinals rallied twice in Monday’s loss to keep the Cubs on their toes.
While they didn’t win, the Cardinals scored four runs off Jake Arrieta, the same amount he had allowed combined in his previous nine starts. Heyward’s sixth-inning homer got St. Louis within a run, and Stephen Piscotty’s round-tripper in the ninth made it a two-run game. Matheny expects to see more of the same confidence on Tuesday.
“This team just continues to fight, and that's not something that you lose regardless of where you stand, and I'm excited to watch them come out and compete,” Matheny said. “That's what this team does well and what they've done all season. Tomorrow is the kind of game where they'll come out with a lot of heart ready to do their thing.”