A bullpen that was in tatters at various times this season -- eight different relievers had saves -- has become one of the Cardinals' strengths as the club moves down the postseason trail.
On a night when Chris Carpenter, their starter, staggered through five innings, the bullpen, in the form of Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Marc Rzepczynski and closer Jason Motte, took care of the final 12 outs on Wednesday. No one reached base in that time, and the Cardinals held on for a 4-3 win that gave them a 2-1 advantage in the National League Championship Series.
"When you see 96 to 99
(miles an hour) coming out of there with nice sliders, I think (the bullpen) is
pretty good," said
The "x" factor is rookie Lynn, a hulking 260-pounder who was on the 60-day disabled list late in the season with an oblique strain and wasn't even active for the Division Series. He retired four straight hitters on Wednesday after getting a double play, throwing only one pitch, to gain the win in Game 2.
Lynn had made a couple of starts for the Cardinals, one good, one not so good, after coming up from Class AAA Memphis the first time and then went into the bullpen when he returned. Manager Tony La Russa said, "It's one of things where he was absolutely not intimidated by the situation or circumstances or whatever."
But, until very late in
September, even though
It's next spring now. It just happens to be in October.
3B David Freese continued
his torrid hitting with two doubles and a single as he hit safely in his seventh
straight game in the postseason. Early in the Division Series with
The Cardinals' 4-3 win on Wednesday put them ahead in a series for the first time this postseason other than Game 5 of the Division Series. Most people, of course, never had figured the club would make the playoffs at all. "We had nothing to lose. And we have nothing to lose now," said RHP Chris Carpenter, Wednesday's winner.
RF Lance Berkman was hit
in the right leg by a pitch and probably won't start in Thursday's fourth game.
Berkman, who likely will be replaced by Allen Craig, is 3-for-32 anyway against
RHP Kyle Lohse, who will
work Game 4 for the Cardinals, hasn't pitched since the first game of the
Division Series against
2B Skip Schumaker, out this series with an oblique strain, says he may be able to play in the World Series if the Cardinals get that far.
1B Albert Pujols had a double and single, giving him four doubles, a home run and a single in his last two games. He has 43 postseason RBI, eighth on the all-time list.
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 - Postseason wins for RHP Chris Carpenter, tying Hall of Famer Bob Gibson for first place on the Cardinals' career list. "I've done OK, but I'm not Bob Gibson," said Carpenter.
Related article at The Cardinal Nation Blog: "Carpenter ties Gibson in Cardinals post-season wins"
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If you stop and think you may get distracted and you start walking around and digging yourself, and we don't want to do that."
- Manager Tony La Russa, on his surprising wild-card club moving ahead 2-1 in the National League Championship Series.
RF Lance Berkman (bruised right leg) was hit by a pitch in Game 3 of the NLCS and probably won't start in Game 4.
2B/OF Skip Schumaker (right oblique) was injured in Oct. 7's NLDS Game 5. He was left off the NLCS roster.
RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season. Wainwright was getting closer to throwing a full-strength bullpen session in September, but he will not be allowed to throw his signature curveball until next year.
NEXT GAME - NLCS Game 4
Thu., October 13: vs. BREWERS: Kyle Lohse vs. Randy Wolf, 7:05 P.M. CDT (TBS, ESPN Radio, KMOX).
– 6:30 P.M. A Special Pre-Game Rally in
o Live music with Arvell & Co, other entertainment, prizes and more
o Appearances by Fredbird, Team Fredbird, and the Cardinals Rally Squirrel
o Photo opportunities with Mike Matheny, Jack Clark, and the ‘82 and ‘06 World Series trophies
· Gates will open two hours before the game
· 40,000 Fans will receive a Rally Towel sponsored by Edward Jones
· Pre-Game Ceremony Details
o First Pitch by Jim Edmonds
VIDEO FROM FOXSPORTSMIDWEST.COM
Tony La Russa and his players shed light on Wednesday's narrow Game 3 victory over the Brewers.
St. Louis players analyze their performance against Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Tony La Russa's full post-game comments (from MLB and ASAP Sports)
Q. How would you best describe that job done by the bullpen tonight?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, as good as you can do. Get 12 outs against that offense. It's not going to work very often that you can put four zeros against their offense. But each guy came in and really stepped up. I thought they were really aggressive, they threw good strikes and didn't fall behind. Not too many intimidating hitters, but still got to go after them, and they did.
Q. Have the last couple of games been a nice point for your bullpen to step forward?
TONY LA RUSSA: Well, it's a nice point for people that haven't seen them much. But you know, after Mo [Mozeliak] made that trade with McClellan and Dotel went to the pen, we were really good and really deep and then we lost Lynn, which was a big blow. You see what he's capable of doing. But that's the way they have been pitching. We just have got a lot of depth on both the right hand and left hand side.
Q. Your team has had to play from behind a lot, dating back to the wild card race. What's it like to have a series lead right now? What's that like?
TONY LA RUSSA: We'll see tomorrow night. Hope we don't lose two in a row just to put our backs up against the wall. We are really not going to stop and think about it, because there's so much yet to do. But if you stop and think, you may get distracted and you start walking around and digging yourself, and we don't want to do that. I feel very comfortable we'll come out tomorrow ready to play, because of the respect we have for Milwaukee, and we know how good they are.
Q. You mentioned about Lynn. He's really been a huge factor in this series in Game 2, with the one pitch double play. And then tonight. What's he doing that he's just really doing a great job in that middle relief?
TONY LA RUSSA: He started two games when we had a problem, and he pitched well. He beat Houston; sent him back down. Brought him back, used him in the pen, and it's just one of those things where he was absolutely not intimidated by the situation or circumstances or whatever. And what he was doing, reliever stuff, he's rearing back and he's throwing -- and today Dunc says, I'm not sure how good he is, because his velocity was down, but he spotted it well and he had his breaking ball. That's what he does really well, he has a breaking ball he can throw, but on most days, he's getting it up there, 94, 95, 96 with late life and absolutely can't bother him. It's one of those hits that when we had to put him on the disabled list, we went, oh, man, and we got around it, and now he's back.
Q. How huge was it for the offense to come out as fast as they did in the first inning?
TONY LA RUSSA: They both did, because both guys you could tell early on, they were in the middle of the plate, and we got Gallardo and later on you saw what he did with the double plays and we couldn't get anything else off of him. He just started making quality pitches, and Carp got better. He worked so hard early that Dave and I, there wasn't even a hesitation at inning five, once he got that last big out, he shouldn't be pushed. But both offenses noticed that the starters were not sharp early and they came out and had some fun and starters got better and the relievers were better.
Q. That's five games in a row you've scored in the first inning now. Can you talk about just jumping out early and also what David Freese is giving you down at the bottom of the order?
TONY LA RUSSA: I think any place you put David Freese, he'll give it to you. He's just a quality, clutch producer and he'll get better and better in his career. I think a lot of it has to go to the readiness to take that first at bat of Rafael and Jon. They are the ones that are setting the table early. They are the ones getting themselves ready for that first at bat.
Q. I believe it was 19 earned in the last 16 and two thirds for your team against Gallardo. Any reason why you can explain the success against a talent like Yo?
TONY LA RUSSA: I was reviewing our season against him and I ran into a lineup card where he shut us out 4 0, and after that first four run spot, what did he get? He's got all of the pitches. We got him before he got sharp, but he's the real deal and he showed it. We had a couple of great chances to add which normally come back to haunt you, but our pitching staff prevented that. But let me tell you, he's a handful, and he's every bit as good as a No. 1 starter is supposed to be.
Chris Carpenter, Jason Motte, David Freese full post-game comments
Q. This is actually for both of you. You've had to play from behind going back to the wild card race, faced two elimination games against the Phillies. And now you have a serious lead. What's that like, and are you worried maybe that edge will be gone a little bit tomorrow? What's it like having a serious lead now?
DAVID FREESE: No, I think every time you're in that situation, it helps you as a ballclub. You've got to learn how to go about those type of situations, and you know, we are actually ahead in the series, and obviously that's good. It's a good thing for us, but we are not going to take it lightly. That team over there is going to be ready for tomorrow and we have to be ready, too.
CHRIS CARPENTER: I think that our ballclub, no matter leading or behind, it doesn't really matter, to be honest with you. We have battled, for the last two and a half months, or two months, or however long it's been, and we are going to continue to play the way we are playing no matter if we are ahead, behind; we have nothing to lose. We had nothing to lose and we have nothing to lose now. We are going to continue to do what we are doing; go out and give it the best we can. You saw it tonight, saw it the other night in Milwaukee and you saw it the first night in Milwaukee. We are going to continue to do that and see what happens. We are not concerned about what people think and where we're at. We are here playing as hard as we can, just as we have for the last two months.
Q. Chris, you've obviously been watching Albert play on a consistent basis for a long time. Is what he's doing this postseason, for those of us who do not see him all the time, is this par for the course, or is he even on another level than usually?
CHRIS CARPENTER: That's a great question. I've been very fortunate since I came here. I think that my first year was 2003. What was his first year? 2001 maybe, something like that. I was very fortunate to watch this guy play for the last nine years. And when you are that type of player at that level, the expectations from you, me, I'm sure his family, his kids friends, I mean, anybody that's out there, the expectation level for what he's supposed to do is unbelievable. That being said, he continues to amaze me every single year. Every year, you can't believe the things that he does, the games that he has, pressures that he deals with, distractions that he deals with.
Coming into this season, free agent, how much money is he going to get, best player in baseball, is he going to be here, is he not going to be here; and he comes in, just like the same old Albert, and works hard in spring training, starts off a little slow, everybody is questioning whether or not it's because of his contract situation. No, he continues to grind, he continues to play, and continues to do the things that amazes every single one of us every single day. So what he's doing right now, does that it's him. That's who he is. He's an exceptional player, exceptional hitter. He's got the mind of stone. Nothing bothers him no matter what situation he's in. And that's what makes him great.
Q. What kind of stuff do you feel like you had on the mound tonight? Did you feel like you were fighting it at all those five innings?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Absolutely. It was a battle all night long. My stuff was okay, but these guys worked me hard. They put great at bats, not get ahead, they'd take close pitches, take touch pitches and get themselves back in counts. All night long it was a battle. But you know what, that's what it's all about here in the postseason. Our bullpen did a phenomenal job to finish it out and we win, and that's what's important.
Q. In 12 postseason starts for you now, seven wins, that matches Bob Gibson for the franchise record. Can you reflect on what your postseason career means to you looking at the whole body of work?
CHRIS CARPENTER: It's exciting. It's pretty neat that -- I've always said that anything, when you as a player are put in the category or people talk to you in the same sentence or about you in the same sentence as people like Bob Gibson, it's pretty neat. And Bob Gibson, he's a Hall of Fame guy that's a super stud. I've done okay, but I'm not Bob Gibson. The ability to go out and pitch in big games in postseason and win big games in postseason, that's pretty neat, and I'm glad I can do that for my teammates.
Q. When you were talking yesterday, you were saying how much you enjoyed the last start and took time to enjoy it. Is this one of the reasons because you never do know if you're going to have to go out there and labor for five innings?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Absolutely. You never know what game and how it's going to work out. You come there every single night, prepared to do what you need to do, confident in what your abilities are, but you never know what's going to happen. And that's what's so fun about this game and that's what's so fun about pitching. You go out there, you have got guys on the other side grinding out at bats, pressuring you all night long. You have a few in field hits, a couple of broken bat hits, and the next thing you know, you're in trouble every single inning, and that's what makes it fun. You continue to battle and grind it out, and our guys did a fabulous job to pull it off tonight, and it's a big win for us.
Q. Jason, could you describe the sense of stability y'all feel in the bullpen now compared to early in the season when before things seemed to kind of, you know, consolidate out there and to define themselves a little bit better than they are now?
JASON MOTTE: Geez, I think it's just one of those things, all year, we've had our ups and downs in the bullpen. And you know, stuff happened early on, but those guys -- us down in the bullpen, we just went out there every single time and it didn't matter when it was or who it was. When that phone rang to say get going, we get ready to go. So it's just been one of those things that all year, there's been different guys doing different things, but I don't think anyone down there really cares as long as at the end of the day, we get the win. So you know, like I said, we have had our ups and downs and we just go out there and it's the game of baseball. You're going to have a good day and a bad day, but in the bullpen, you get a chance to come out the next day and hopefully redeem yourself. You just have to forget about it if you have a bad one and hopefully go out the next day and do well.
Q. The bullpen was booed early in the year, and today you had 12 up and 12 down in a big game. What can you point to as the difference? What changed for you guys?
JASON MOTTE: Like I was saying, I think as a whole, we just kind of came together, and we came to the point that it doesn't matter who it is, when it is. We had a guy in Salas that came in and pitched the sixth inning tonight and he was closing a month and a half, two months ago, and he came in and did a great job. He came in the other week in Philly in the third or fourth inning and threw two innings for us and that was big. I've thrown everywhere from the third inning to the tenth inning myself.
But you know, when that phone rings, we get ourselves ready, we get our arms ready and we get our minds ready to go out there and pitch, and we are going to go out there and give it everything we have until Tony comes and takes the ball away from us. I can't speak for everybody else, but I know for me when I get out there and I'm getting myself ready, my job is to get the guy out that's at the plate, and for me, if he gets a hit and Tony let's me stay out there, which sometimes he does, sometimes he has or hasn't, but you know, that guy gets on, and my job is to get the next guy out. So I just go out there with that mind set and try to execute pitches, locate, and get the guys out.
Q. David, five straight games you guys have scored in the first inning. What do you attribute the fast start, and also, on your double, did you think Hart was going to run that one down?
DAVID FREESE: I think just focus, knowing, especially in the postseason, they are going to throw out pitcher after pitcher that can bury you if you are not ready to go. And I think the key in the postseason is to get a fast start and kind of show the other team that you're here, and you're going to give it a hard nine. And yeah, off the bat, kind of got off the end a little bit, and I thought Hart was going to snag it, but it kind of got by his glove and fortunate to get that run.
Q. Pregame, real cool moment when Stan Musial came out playing "The Natural" music, big reaction from the fans. Being a St. Louis guy and lifelong Cardinals fan, how did that resonate with you?
DAVID FREESE: It's unreal. Every time Stan Musial comes around the clubhouse we take time to go say hi to him. And when he gets on the field, whether it's tonight or Opening Day, all of the guys that are in the Hall come out and join him. It's just special to be a part of.
Q. What have you learned from Albert throughout your career here?
DAVID FREESE: I think the thing about Albert and kind of the other big guys we've got, I learn and I watch them like a hawk every day. I think I've had the opportunity to kind of do some things because of them. I've learned that you've got to put your work in. Those guys will tell you that they don't wake up and hit .330 with 40 and 120. A lot of dedication and a lot of hard work, and you have to be even keel. Sometimes I'm a little hard on myself, but you've just got to understand that it's baseball and things are going to go your way and things aren't. But you've just got to be confident and you've got to focus and be ready every day.
Q. Tony has said it's always about the players, but I wonder for you guys, he seems to push the right button at the right time to pull those right strings at the right times; maybe your thoughts on that?
CHRIS CARPENTER: Well, first of all, I mean, I've said many times, Tony is the most prepared person I've ever been around. He lives and dies by numbers, by matchups, by lineups. I mean, everybody questions at times why he throws different lineups up there. It's because there's reasons behind that. He's put his work into knowing why he's doing that.
Why does he push the right buttons at the right times? Because he puts work, he puts his time into knowing when to push the right buttons. There's a reason why he's won so many games he's won. There's a reason why he's been to the playoffs as many times as he's been there. There's a reason why his teams continue to win.
There's a reason why he's a Hall of Fame manager, and that's because he puts his work in, he's prepared more than any person I've ever seen, and when he does push those buttons, he has no fear whatsoever, whether it's wrong or right, and he will answer to it if it's wrong and he will answer to it if it's right. And he's not scared about it, and that's what makes him great.
DAVID FREESE: I think he summed it up.
CHRIS CARPENTER: They are just scared (laughing).
Q. Can you talk about Lance Lynn and his meaning to this bullpen? And early did the relief core were you guys talking about his progress in late September, about coming back from the injury?
JASON MOTTE: You know, we had talked about it when he got hurt. He was pitching in big games for us in big situations, and when he got hurt, it kind of hurt us as a whole. But I feel like other guys filled in, which is really what we have done all season. I think we have had guys step up and come in and do a great job, and you know, in September, we were not really sure what was going on and we didn't know what was going on to have to get him on or if he was better and this and that. He was throwing bullpens, he was telling me and a couple of the guys that he was feeling better.
So I knew that he felt better but we weren't sure exactly how they had to go about getting him on the roster, doing whatever, and I still don't even know what exactly happened to get him back and do everything. But you know, he's a big, strong guy and he goes out there and he worked hard, and he got his body and he got his arm and everything right where he needed to be and he's come out and he's done a great job for us so far.
Q. Just curious, as a starting pitcher, what's it like for you to see the evolution of the guys behind you, the bullpen.
CHRIS CARPENTER: It's been great, and you know, you guys asked questions about Motter and the situation that they were in, and he tried to answer it as politically as he could. We went through a transformation throughout the year, and I don't know if I'll get in trouble for this or not, but when we made the trade, and you bring Rzep, Dotel, and then turn around and sign Arthur (Rhodes), and you bring a little bit of veteran to that pen, confidence to that pen. I'm not down there every night, but I've been around these guys on the plane and in the clubhouse, and it seems like they have a lot of fun together.
And I think Doti and Arthur have brought a lot of confidence to some of these younger guys to not care; to go out, not be concerned about what's going to happen. Let's go out and give it our best and see what happens. If it works, it works; if it doesn't, it doesn't, and we'll go get 'em the next day. And it's evolved into, when I left the game after the fifth tonight, typically as a starting pitcher, you're concerned about that. You don't want to leave 12 outs for your bullpen. I was okay with it. I worked as hard as I could. I had confidence in my guys down there. I had confidence in what they were going to do. And they did it again. They deserve a lot of respect and a lot of credit for what they have done and what we've done for the last couple of months.