October veteran John Lackey playing it cool as Cards enter Game 3

John Lackey has pitched enough in October to understand how much his experience means. And doesn't mean.

Charlie Neibergall/AP

ST. LOUIS — Jon Lester is done. So is David Price. Now it’s up to John Lackey to justify the hype that a big-name starter acquired at the trade deadline can make a major difference in October.

Just don’t expect him to be overly excited about the possibility. Lackey has been there, done that many times. When he takes the mound against the Dodgers on Monday night at Busch Stadium, he will be making his 17th postseason start. Only CC Sabathia, with 18, has more among active pitchers.

The soon-to-be 36-year-old Lackey, who made his playoff debut at 22 with the Angels, has pitched enough in October to understand how much his experience means. And doesn’t mean.

"Things I’ve done in the past aren’t going to help me," Lackey said Sunday in a presser at Busch Stadium. "The only thing that really helps is that kind of outside things like the fly-overs and the ceremonies. I’m prepared for that kind of stuff. But once I get on the mound I’m going to have to pitch well and perform."

Since being acquired from the Red Sox for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig, Lackey has pitched about as well as the Cardinals expected. Seven of his 10 starts qualified as quality and 15 of the 29 earned runs he allowed came in two starts. The Cardinals went 6-4 when Lackey pitched.

In his most recent outing, on Sept. 24, he went 6 2/3 innings and gave up two runs at Wrigley Field in a game the Cardinals lost, 3-1. He also struck out eight, his high with the Cardinals, as his fastball showed more life than in a September stretch when he was given nine days between starts because his right arm was dragging.

"I felt great the last couple of starts the regular season, maybe that little rest I had helped," said Lackey, who still was not a fan of being passed over for a start. "The arm should not be an issue."

Lackey is no stranger to Dodgers hitters, though most of that was before they became Dodgers. Carl Crawford has gone 23 for 48 with two homers against Lackey, with most of that coming when Crawford was playing for the Rays. Adrian Gonzalez, 6 for 17, is the only other active Dodger hitting better than .300 against him. Matt Kemp is 2 for 13 with seven strikeouts, and Juan Uribe is 6 for 23.

Lackey has pitched well enough in October that he could have earned a "Big Game" nickname — except it doesn’t rhyme with John. In his most recent October outing, he held the Cardinals to one run in 6 2/3 innings to clinch the 2013 World Series for the Red Sox. In 104 postseason innings, Lackey has a 3.03 ERA and a 6-5 record. Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, by comparison, has pitched 72 innings with a 3.13 ERA.

Besides strong stuff and 13 years of experience, Lackey also has brought a bit of attitude to St. Louis. Along with the addition of A.J. Pierzynski, the Cardinals’ clubhouse isn’t quite as laid back as it might have been.

"He brought an edge," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think every club when you’re making that push you’re always wondering what kind of improvements can you make. To bring in another front-line style pitcher that brings leadership and then goes out and then performs, too. For the most part, was everything we asked."

So far, anyway. Now he has a chance to do what neither Lester nor Price, despite pitching well, could do for their new teams.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com