ST. LOUIS -- The last long road trip of the season may end up being the most important for the Cardinals, as Friday marks the beginning of a stretch of 11 games in 10 days.
Those 11 games include eight against divisional opponents Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, both of which haven't allowed the Cardinals much separation in the National League Central race. Entering Thursday's game, the Pirates trailed St. Louis by just two games with the second best record in baseball, not that the Cardinals are focused on the standings, at least publicly.
"We try to just keep a common message around here, and one of the clear common messages is, let's just deal with today," manager Mike Matheny said. "We'll jump on a plane, it will take us to the right place, and we'll end up at the right hotel and we're going to start studying the right team. Let's play them then. I just think if we get our heads too far into what's in front of us, you lose some of your focus on here and now. And we've got plenty of here and now."
The Cardinals have championed a cliched, one-game-at-a-time attitude toward this season, but however tired that mantra may sound, Matheny believes it's one of the things that has made the Cardinals successful this season.
"I'm not saying I'm oblivious to what our schedule looks like," Matheny said. "I understand that. So much of this game is a mental war, where you can feel your mind slipping toward anything, you name it. These guys are real people, too. So they've got a life that's creeping into their mind in the middle of a game. It's just, 'How can I redirect my attention and my mind?' It's mental conditioning, and some guys do it better than others, but it's a constant fight."
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.