If you close your eyes and listen to Mike Matheny talk, he almost sounds like Clint Eastwood.
With that in mind, it is no surprise the St. Louis Cardinals manager is far from ready to concede the World Series to the Boston Red Sox.
The Cardinals find themselves in a tough spot after losing 3-1 Monday night in Game 5 at Busch Stadium. St. Louis lost two of three games at home and now trails 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.
If the Cardinals are to become the first team to win three World Series in this century and capture their second title in three years, they will have to beat the Red Sox twice on the road at Fenway Park on Wednesday and Thursday night.
“Our guys have been backed up against the wall before, and this is something that isn’t foreign to them,” Matheny said. “They know what we have to do. We just play our game. If we go about it the right way, we’ll be right where we want to be.
“Now, would it be in a better position if we won tonight? Absolutely. But once again, this isn’t some place they haven’t been before. Go out and play the game. Try not to make too much of it.”
The Cardinals were on the brink of elimination early in the postseason when they fell behind the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 in the best-of-five National League Division Series. However, rookie Michael Wacha took a no-hitter into the eighth inning as he pitched St. Louis to victory in Game 4 at Pittsburgh, then the Cardinals won at home in Game 5.
For the Red Sox, it’s dull, boring and the cliche of all sports cliches, to be sure, but they Sox are succeeding this season by taking it one game at a time.
Manager John Farrell believes the same approach will serve his team well now that it on the doorstep of becoming the first team in this century to win three World Series.
Behind 7 1/3 strong innings from Jon Lester and three more hits by the red-hot David Ortiz, who is batting .733 in the series, the Red Sox prevailed.
“The one thing we won’t do is get too far ahead of ourselves, whether that’s what we achieve collectively or what any individual’s performance suggests,” Farrell said. “The fact is we’re going home, going back to a place that our guys love to play in, in front of our fans.
“This atmosphere (in St. Louis), these three games have been phenomenal. We know it’s going to be equal to that, if not better. And we’re excited about going home in the position we are.”
If the Red Sox do capture the championship, they would do so in front of the home fans for the first time since 1918. Boston clinched its 2004 World Series win at Busch Stadium, then captured the 2007 World Series at Coors Field in Denver. Both of those series ended in sweeps.
It will be Wacha on the mound for the Cardinals in Game 6 on Wednesday night, facing John Lackey.
Those two also met in Game 2 at Fenway Park, with the Cardinals winning 4-2. Wacha gave up two runs and three hits in six innings, while Lackey allowed three runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Wacha is 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in four starts in the postseason after going 4-1 with a 2.78 in 15 regular-season games, including nine starts.
Lackey also pitched one scoreless inning of relief in the Red Sox’s win in Game 4. He is 2-1 in this postseason with a 3.26 ERA in four games, including three starts, and he has a 5-5 lifetime record in the postseason with a 3.14 ERA in 18 games, including 15 starts.
In the regular season, Lackey went 10-13 with a 3.52 ERA in 29 starts.
In his postseason debut Wacha won an elimination game against Pittsburgh, then in the National League Championship Series he twice got the better of LA Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw to win the Most Valuable Player award for the series.
The 22-year-old, who has become one of the hottest young pitchers in baseball, also earned the win in Game Two of the World Series.
However, Boston’s 3-1 victory on Monday means Wacha has no margin for error.
Cards second baseman Matt Carpenter was under no illusions about the challenge his team faced but said they would support Wacha as best they could.
“It’s going to be tough, no doubt about it, but there’s no quit in this team,” he said in a subdued home team locker room at Busch Stadium.
“So we’re going to come out with all the confidence in the world in him and hopefully we can score some runs.
“If you can get to Game 7, anything can happen.”