Following the team's stunning 9-7 win over the Nationals in the early hours of Saturday morning, St. Louis departed the airport in Washington close to 3 a.m. ET. A nearly six-hour cross-country flight followed, leaving the club to check into its San Francisco hotel around 6:30 a.m. PT.
"There were still people smiling as we got off the plane even at six in the morning, but it was a pretty under-control flight," manager Mike Matheny said. "I was hoping they wouldn't take this too lightly and that they did enjoy it for as long as they could. But they seemed pretty focused about moving forward and getting this next series started."
Several players said they sneaked in a few more hours of sleep at the hotel before reporting to the ballpark for the light workout.
"We didn't mind," grinned Marc Rzepczynski. "It beats the alternative."
Several pitchers did take the field on Saturday for a light throwing session. Other players remained inside to receive treatment, watch video in preparation for the series and fulfill media obligations before returning to the hotel shortly after 4 p.m. PT.
It capped a whirlwind 24 hours that began with a win-or-go-home game three time zones away on Friday. The Cardinals pulled off the improbable against the Nationals, becoming the first team in postseason history to climb out of a six-run deficit in a winner-take-all game.
In doing so, it has guaranteed the Cardinals at least four more games in their 2012 season.
"We just have that confidence in ourselves," Carlos Beltran said. "When I joined the ballclub in Spring Training, I saw these guys playing the game relaxed with no pressure. There is no panic here."
Matheny said he was able to catch highlights of the game on ESPN during the overnight flight. Even that, however, wasn't sufficient enough to help him capture the magnitude of the comeback.
"I'm going to have to watch that game over again," said the rookie manager. "It still hasn't really sunk in, at least to the extent of what these guys did. The at-bats they put together, the innings that the bullpen threw, I mean, it was one that goes into a category like I've never seen before personally or been that closely a part of."