(BaseballStL) -- Taking things "one game at a time" or treating every day the same, is one of the more worn out and overused tropes in sports. It's something they have to say, and we all know it isn't true.
You don't feel the same about a series with the Astros as you do with the division leader. The Cubs coming to town is not objectively equal to the Pirates doing the same. Despite this knowledge- common as it is- we still hear soundbites of athletes and coaches preaching utmost equality in approach and mentality.
That's why when someone goes beyond the canned response and acknowledges the importance- numerically and emotionally- of a game or series, it's refreshingly exciting.
"We're not oblivious to the standings and not oblivious to how this all plays out. As far as application goes, it's one game at a time, but I know that all of us walked out of Pittsburgh excited about playing them again," said Mike Matheny in the dugout before Tuesday's series opener with the Pirates. "[We're] looking forward to showing them a different style. The kind of style that we've had all season long which is a much better game of baseball."
This series has no doubt been marked on calendars throughout the clubhouse, something the Cardinal manager said is tangible prior to the first pitch.
"I know the guys are very anxious for this series," he said. "We have a lot of pride about how we go about our business."
No one's pride is perhaps more ready for redemption than Adam Wainwright's. The Cardinal ace saw the Pirates on July 31, and gave up eight hits and four runs in seven innings work. WIth a three game deficit in the NL Central, the Birds need tone-setting start out of the big stopper.
"We love every time Adam is on the mound, whether he's got his good stuff or not," said Matheny. "He's a great leader for us. I'm excited to see him with a couple extra days [rest]."
The second half has seen a decline in nearly every category for the Cardinals, with many individual stats taking big dips. While the losing streak was snapped Sunday against the Cubs, Matheny says the stretch of tough losses can bring about improvement in a club even if the record doesn't reflect it.
"I think it develops a team I think it brings guys a lot closer," he said. "You talk about character, you talk about fight and drive, those things usually deepen during the struggles. You get to that point where you can't wait to get back to how it was when you were reeling off win after win. It creates that hunger and that's where the guys are right now."
The Cardinals will likely need every bit of their appetite Tuesday, as the Pirates bring a season's worth of dominance and a three game lead into St. Louis.