While Pirates manager Clint Hurdle associated ESPN's selection of this game as another tangible sign of the Pirates' increase in relevancy, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny dismissed suggestions that his club should feel honored for being chosen for prime-time viewing.
"That's the answer that they keep giving us, is that we should be grateful," Matheny said. "But I have to tell you, there is no gratitude for this. I understand for the good of the game, but there is no benefit for us. Our fan base is going to be able to pick up our games on TV. This isn't like back in the day where if you get coverage from them it's the only time people are going to get to see you. People all over the world are picking up our games.
"It is a compliment that they want to see us on the national scene. I don't think it's taken into consideration at all that it makes it harder for us. You get in at four o'clock in the morning and ... if they tell you that playing the next day that's not going to affect you, I'd say they're wrong. I'm not looking for excuses, but it's happened to us. It happened to us last year and we played through it. You start watching guys getting run down."
Matheny's opinion is certainly influenced by the frequency with which his club appears in these showcased games. In 2013, the Cardinals played six Sunday night games, the maximum allowed per team based upon Major League Baseball's contract with ESPN.
The Cardinals are in a stretch of playing three Sunday night games in a four-week span. All are on the road, which means that a postgame overnight flight is attached to each one. None of the three are followed by an off-day either, something Matheny suggested would help minimize the competitive disadvantage.
"I think a little more consideration needs to be given to the fact that it beats a team up," Matheny said. "Our job is to win games, and I feel this is something that affects us one way or another. There is nobody out there fighting for us on this. It is what it is. I understand that there are big contracts that go toward baseball and our club specifically, too, and I'm grateful for that. But when it comes down to this club in here, we don't feel exceptionally fortunate that these games are put on the national scene. It makes it more difficult for us."
The Cardinals, after playing last Sunday night in Chicago, were not to their Atlanta hotel until close to 4 a.m. ET on Monday. The team had a game against the Braves later that day. The most challenging rebound will come later this month when the Cardinals play under the lights in Cincinnati on May 25 before facing the Yankees in a home Memorial Day afternoon game.
ESPN has already chosen the Cardinals' July 20 home game against the Dodgers as another for its Sunday night telecast. The network still has the flexibility to select two more St. Louis games.
"I'm sure more national exposure for our club is good in some sense, but once again, in here, it comes down to wins and losses," Matheny said. "That is all we look at. And all I look at is trying to keep these guys right, or get them right. And bringing them in on things that get them out of their normal routine isn't easy to do."