Mike Matheny made an admission Thursday, the timing of which was a bit surprising. The St. Louis Cardinals hadn't even finished their home series against the Astros when Matheny expressed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch how eager he was to hit the road and face the Cincinnati Reds on Friday. The Cardinals came into play trailing the Reds by eight games in the NL Central.
"I can't wait to play them," said Matheny. "That's so contradictory to everything I've said. We've got to get Houston today but you look at this trip coming up and how that (July) series went. That could have very easily have been three games on the other side — for us."
Look at Matheny trolling with the bulletin-board material. While he's no Tony La Russa, this is pretty good. Although, Matheny might have been murmuring "I told ya' so" to himself after the Astros took an early lead on the Cardinals, who were seeking a series sweep. Happy flight to Cincinnati? Not so fast. But it wasn't because Matheny sat some of his regulars on a getaway day. The Cardinals lineup was, for the most part, full of everyday players. That's how you have to play it, even against the worst team in the league, in late August.
Yet, it's understandable why Matheny feels like he can't wait to play the Reds.
Not only because the Cardinals need to make up ground, and hold off the other wild-card contenders, but also because they lost three close, low-scoring games to Cincy to open the second half of the season. Bad memories. Not to mention the bad blood that often seems to boil, or even spill, when the Cards and Reds get together.
Actually, it would be easy for the Cardinals to get geeked up for their entire road trip. It's a monster. After visiting the Queen City (that's Cincy), Team Fredbird moves on to Pittsburgh and Washington. It's like a playoff preview tour! The road back to the World Series for the Cardinals goes through McCutchens and Strasburgs! Not to get too ahead of ourselves, Matheny says:
"I don't think you're making too big deal of it because it is a big deal. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's defining because we've all seen that, every time we say, 'This is the do or die,' it's not necessarily the case.
"But to ignore the fact this a huge road trip would be a mistake."
Somehow, I doubt Matheny will be mentioning the Cardinals' next homestand until the biggest road trip of the season (so far) is over.