ST. LOUIS -- Win-or-go-home scenarios are nothing new for St. Louis. The Cardinals have faced elimination in eight games since the 2011 postseason, and they have advanced in seven of them, a trend they hope continues against the Pirates on Wednesday in Game 5 of the National League Division Series (7 p.m. CT on TBS).
Manager Mike Matheny credits the team's consistent approach from Spring Training all the way to October as the catalyst for his players' propensity to step up in big situations.
"... Once you get to the stage that we're at now, you're not going to be surprised, you're not going to be shell-shocked, and you're not going to be wondering what you need to do, because you've been practicing it, you've been mastering your craft," Matheny said. "I think that philosophy is easy to talk about, but it's hard to put into play. You need veteran leadership from our pitching staff, from our position players, to be able to put that into play where guys can see it.
"… It comes down to execution, which we all know, but I believe you have a better shot at doing it on a consistent basis if you take that route all season."
When the Cards won the World Series in 2011, they played four games in which they could have been eliminated, winning Games 4 and 5 of the NLDS, then Games 6 and 7 of the World Series. Last season, they kept their championship hopes alive through Game 7 of the NL Championship Series, fending off elimination first in the inaugural NL Wild Card Game in Atlanta, then once more in Game 5 of the NLDS in Washington.
This year, the Cardinals have already extended their season with Monday's Game 4 victory in Pittsburgh, and they will look to do so again Wednesday, when they send ace Adam Wainwright to the mound for the decisive Game 5 at Busch Stadium.
"We won a game yesterday in St. Louis fashion," first baseman Matt Adams said. "Our pitching staff handled their offense pretty well, and [Matt Holliday] came up with a big hit, bringing the confidence back home for Game 5. So we're pretty excited about that."
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less