ST. LOUIS — The Cardinals have had their share of drama in 2014. An offense that has at times looked skeletal has heaped pressure upon pitchers to keep things close.
The staff has responded, tying Tampa Bay with an MLB-leading 21 team shutouts. Tight games make pressure a nightly reality, and though blowouts are less stressful, Mike Matheny values the close wins.
“Teams that play in those close games consistently over the course of the season, I believe that they’re prepared- I’m not going to say for October- they’re prepared for this time of year,” he said, pointing to Wednesday’s late 2-0 win against the Brewers. “We got into a game last night where we’re locked horns late in the game and it just felt like another game. I know early in the season you get in those games and you can sense everybody being, ‘ok we have to be perfect.’ I think when you’ve been in enough of those situations, you realize, ‘ok we just stay the course here and we’ll be alright. We’re going to figure out a way to get this done.’”
The Birds certainly have enough exposure to high-stakes baseball. They have been in 50 one-run games, going 28-22 in those contests. The only other division leader that has been in more is Baltimore at 51.
While that environment can be educational, Matheny admitted he wouldn’t mind seeing a few wider margins. “For my health’s sake and the cardiovascular health of our fan base, maybe so,” he said. “But I would say if you look back, I believed that it’s helped define us.”
The Cardinals can push the Brewers back six games with nine to play if they take the series Thursday night. Matheny said though the offense has slowed in two games against the Brewers, he doesn’t see it as a regression.
“We got the potential and ability to go out there and throw up good offensive numbers every night,” he nodded. “Last night we didn’t, I fully anticipate tonight we will.”
1) Matt Carpenter
2) Jon Jay CF
3) Matt Holliday LF
4) Matt Adams 1B
5) Jhonny Peralta SS
6) Yadier Molina C
7) Oscar Taveras RF
8) Kolten Wong 2B
9) Shelby Miller P