Cardinals starter John Lackey seems to thrive on big-game pitcher talk
John Lackey stepped to the podium, minus the obvious status symbols: his two World Series rings. No reason to brag.
”No, I don’t wear them very much,” he said Sunday. ”Maybe to a wedding or stuff like that. They’re a little big and a little flashy, not exactly my style.”
The St. Louis Cardinals acquired Lackey from World Series champion Boston at the trade deadline for occasions just like this, knowing National League Division Series Game 3 against the Los Angeles Dodgers won’t be too big for the 35-year-old right-hander. Lackey won a game in each series last fall, including the Game 6 clincher over St. Louis.
”Yeah, definitely take pride in that,” Lackey said. ”I want to pitch well this time of year, but things I’ve done in the past aren’t going to help me tomorrow. ”
Lackey (14-10) starts after the Cardinals split in California against Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Los Angele left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-7), recovered from shoulder irritation, makes his first start since Sept. 12.
Through an interpreter, Ryu thought it an ”almost zero percent chance” that the shoulder would be a factor.
”It’s an honor for them to trust me with this tomorrow,” Ryu said. ”I don’t want to let them down.”
Ryu pitched seven scoreless innings last year to beat the Cardinals in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly described the pitcher as ”pretty unflappable.”
”He seems to be that guy that nothing really bothers him,” Mattingly said. ”I’m sure he’s a little, like everyone else, excited and anxious and all those things.”
Los Angeles was 0-3 at Busch Stadium in last year’s playoffs, shut out twice. The Dodgers scored two runs and totaled 16 hits in 31 innings with no homers.
”Five-game series, things can go anybody’s way,” closer Kenley Jansen said after striking out two during a perfect ninth inning that completed the Dodgers’ 3-2 win that evened the series. ”Got to go there and steal one.”
The Cardinals did not work out after taking an overnight flight that touched down in St. Louis about 6 a.m. A tarpaulin covered the infield later Sunday when about a dozen Dodgers players, including Clayton Kershaw, played catch and ran sprints in left field under the lights.
Shelby Miller (10-9) makes his first career postseason start in Game 4 on Tuesday. Dan Haren (13-11) is the probable for the Dodgers, but Haren will also prepare as if he’s starting Game 3 in case he’s needed in long relief.
”Yeah, we have flexibility,” Mattingly said. ”We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow for us. Anything could happen with Hyun-Jin.”
The Dodgers could turn to Kershaw on short rest in Game 4 if they are facing elimination. Kershaw is favored to win his third Cy Young Award in four years after going 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA, but he has a 1-4 record and a 5.20 ERA in the postseason and twice straight has been pummeled by the Cardinals.
Ryu threw 43 pitches in a three-inning simulated game on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. He lasted just one inning in his last start of the season, but Mattingly pointed out he’s also thrown two bullpen sessions.
”It’s not like we’re just throwing him out there,” the manager said.
Still, stamina could be a factor, and the Dodgers have had middle-relief issues. Rookie Pedro Baez allowed Matt Holliday’s three-run homer that put the Cardinals ahead 10-6 in the opener, and J.P. Howell gave up Matt Carpenter’s tying two-run homer in the seventh inning in Game 2.
Unlike the Cardinals, who have All-Star setup man Pat Neshek ahead of Trevor Rosenthal, the Dodgers have had to mix and match.
”You just can’t worry about that,” Jansen said. ”What happened yesterday happened. That doesn’t happen very often.”
After a mid-September break to recharge from a dead arm, Lackey allowed three earned runs in 14-1/3 innings his last two outings. He’ll be making his first appearance since Sept. 24.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny wasn’t surprised Lackey didn’t take it well when he got skipped in September.
”Yeah, I’ve had some interesting looks and conversations,” Matheny said. ”Yeah, every time I go to take him out, I know it’s going to be something. He’s done a nice job of walking that fine line of making it known he’d like to stay in the game, but also not crossing that line.”
Lackey needs 3-2/3 innings to overtake CC Sabathia (107-2/3) as the active leader in postseason innings.
”I’m going to cut it loose. Whatever is in there is going to be in there,” Lackey said. ”Yeah, this isn’t the regular season. We’re not saving anything.”