The St. Louis Cardinals appear in control of the National League Championship Series, taking a 2-0 advantage into Game 3 Monday night in Dodger Stadium, but they know they’re in no position to feel overly confident about their World Series chances.
Last October, the Cardinals took what they thought was a commanding 3-1 NLCS lead over San Francisco, only to lose Games 5, 6 and 7 by a combined score of 20-1. The Giants, of course, went on to sweep Detroit in the World Series.
“It looked like we were in a very good position, and that changed quickly,” Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny said. “All of a sudden, we had a full turnaround in momentum. I don’t think guys will ever forget that feeling of being that close and to then watch it slip away.”
The Cardinals beat the Dodgers’ co-aces, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, in Games 1 and 2, and the pitching advantage swings toward them in Game 3, as they’ll send ace Adam Wainwright to the mound against Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who was hit hard in his division series start against Atlanta.
But as St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal said of a 3-2, 13-inning Game 1 win and a 1-0 Game 2 victory, “It’s not like we’re dominating them or blowing them out of the water. Both sides are pretty evenly matched.”
And it wasn’t Giants ace Matt Cain who swung the 2012 NLCS in San Francisco’s favor. It was supposedly washed-up left-hander Barry Zito who threw 7 2/3 shutout innings in a 5-0 Game 5 victory.
“We have a two-game lead, but it doesn’t mean anything, actually,” said Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran, who knocked in all three runs in Game 1. “It feels good, but until it’s over, you can’t celebrate. We have to stay focused as a team and continue to approach the game the same way.”
That’s something the Cardinals, in the eyes of their manager, have become very good at doing.
“Our guys have trained themselves since February to play them one at a time, regardless of what happened yesterday, good, bad or indifferent,” Matheny said. “We’ve had some brutal losses, and the guys came back the next day like it never happened.
“We’ve had some exciting wins and come back the next day with a lot of the hunger. So that’s what we continue to preach. That consistency is really in my mind what separates the good players from the very good players and the good teams from the very good teams.”
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