October 23, 2013

On Baseball: Cards have been here before

St. Louis hopes this meeting with Boston has a better ending.

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BOSTON — Mike Matheny spoke of the challenge of managing this St. Louis Cardinals club against Boston when someone brought up history again.

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St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny watches batting practice for Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Boston Red Sox Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, in Boston.

The Associated Press

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Namely, 2004.

“Some of us have pretty bad memories of being here in 2004,” Matheny said, “and we’re looking to kind of right that ship.”

That 2004 World Series between Boston and St. Louis ended quickly. The Red Sox swept in four games.

Matheny listened to a reporter ask, “What do you remember most about those four games?Obviously the games weren’t very competitive.”

“Ouch,” Matheny said. “I don’t remember (the games) not being competitive.

“But the team in ’04 we played was as hot as any team in baseball. They came in and played the kind of baseball we needed to, and we didn’t.”

Matheny, 34 at the time, was a veteran catcher for the Cardinals, in his 11th season. He batted .247 that year as St. Louis (105-57) ran away with the NL Central.

The Cardinals beat the Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs, then survived the upstart Astros in a series that went all seven games.

“It was a very tough series against Houston,” Matheny said. “It was a knock-down, drag-out fight. It was pretty much a whirlwind by the time we ended there and got here to Boston.

“The next thing you know, we’re down two games and didn’t even know what happened.”

The Red Sox were flying high after recovering from a 3-0 deficit to the Yankees to win the ALCS.

In the World Series, Boston scored four runs in the first inning of Game 1 and never trailed in the series.

The first game was an ugly 11-9 win for Boston, with Mark Bellhorn’s two-run homer in the eighth making the difference.

Curt Schilling shut down the Cardinals in a 6-2 win in Game 2.

Pedro Martinez followed in Game 3 (4-1), and Derek Lowe in Game 4 (3-0).

“They had an incredible run to get through the Yankees and we couldn’t stop them,” Matheny said.

“We had a very good team that walked on the field expecting to win. And next thing you know, we ran into a buzzsaw.”

Matheny finished his career with two seasons in San Francisco and eventually rejoined the Cardinals as a roving instructor.

He was named the Cardinals’ manager after the 2011 season, replacing the retired Tony LaRussa. Among those interviewed in the managerial search was Terry Francona.

The Cardinals won the World Series in 2011 and Matheny almost got St. Louis back to the Series in 2012. In the NLCS, the Cardinals took a 3-1 lead on the Giants, only to lose three straight games.

Matheny thought back to 2004 when a very good Cardinals team suddenly lost a series.

But he hasn’t spoken about 2004 to his players. The lesson to be learned came last October.

“We talked about last year, standing in San Francisco, watching those guys celebrate, realizing how quickly it can get away from you,” Matheny said. “I think that’s the message we have again this year; just the urgency.

“(Boston) is a team that’s going to fight us the whole way.”

All but one player is gone from that 2004 Boston team. David Ortiz hit five home runs in the postseason that year, including one against the Cardinals. He batted .308 against St. Louis.

Ortiz will be batting fourth against St. Louis in Game 1.

“We know that anybody can come up big this time of year,” Matheny said. “Some of them do it on a little more consistent basis, and you’ve got to play pretty close attention.”

Pay attention, Matheny knows it can slip away so fast.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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