ST. LOUIS (BaseballSTL) -- There isn’t another team in the major leagues with more successful recent experience in playing “win or go home” games than the Cardinals.
They won the one game playoff against Atlanta. Last year they won game 7 of the World Series against Texas. They won game 5 against Philadelphia in the NLDS. They beat Houston on the final game of the regular season. The Cardinals have proven with this core of players they can handle the pressure of a “do or die game”.
It won’t be easy tonight though against the Nationals. Forget the idea of momentum. As the old baseball cliché goes “momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher”. For the Cardinals that means sending the battle tested Adam Wainright to the mound.
He’s been a great clutch performer over the years, but Wainwright was just 14-13 this season as he rebounds from Tommy John surgery. The Nationals will start 21 game winner Gio Gonzalez, their starting pitcher when they beat the Cardinals in game 1 of this series.
Gonzalez was shaky though. He walked seven, and clearly wasn’t himself. It looked the pressure of the situation got to him. The Cardinals are hoping he gets the big game yips again tonight.
I talked with Skip Schumaker this morning and he says all the players will be nervous tonight. Skip said he was so nervous before last year’s game 7 against the Texas Rangers that he almost threw up.
There’s more time to get nervous in baseball than in other sports. Unlike football, basketball or hockey where this is almost constant movement, there’s plenty of stand around time in baseball,, allowing time to think and get jittery over the next at bat or important play in the field. But most of the Cardinals players have been through this before. Most of the Nationals players have not.
Schumaker told me that he thinks tonight’s game will be a lot like yesterday’s, with pitchers doing a lot of nibbling on the corners. He said he thinks it’s going to be a well pitched game where the bullpens come into play.
Cards closer Jason Motte hasn’t been a factor in this series yet, but he’s well rested and raring to go. The Cardinals plans is for Adam Wainright to go seven or eight strong innings, and then have Motte can come in and blow the Nationals away in the 9th, and keep alive the Cardinals hopes of winning their 12th in ‘12.