Matheny says Cardinals' dustup with Cubs is in past
Not only is the NL Central baseball's best division this season, it's the most volatile.
The benches cleared in Wednesday night's wild-card game between the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park after Pirates reliever Tony Watson drilled Cubs ace Jake Arrieta.
In a Sept. 18 game between the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field, the blood was boiling after Anthony Rizzo was hit twice and the Cards' Matt Holliday was hit in the back of the batting helmet.
After the game, Cubs manager Joe Maddon went on the attack.
"I have no history with the Cardinals except that I used to love them as a kid growing up," Maddon said. "Right now, that really showed me a lot today in a negative way. I don't know who put out the hit (on Rizzo). I don't know if Tony Soprano was in the dugout, but I didn't see him in there. But we're not going to put up with that. I'm going to say that. From them or anyone else."
Will tempers flare again when the Cubs and Cardinals meet in the National League division series?
"We just go play the game," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said Thursday. "This time of year, you play teams as much as we play teams in our division you're going to have times when, whether it's just the competitive nature or whether it's tempers, whatever it is, it goes in a direction like that.
"But for us that's in the past. We go out and play the game and understand that we're required to go about the game the way that we think it should go."
Leading the way:
When rotation ace Adam Wainwright went down with an Achilles injury in April, veteran right-hander John Lackey stepped up and had one of the best seasons of his career with a 13-10 record, career best 2.77 ERA in 218 innings.
Lackey gets the ball in Game 1 of the ALDS. In 3 starts against the Cubs this year, he was 2-0 with a 1.25 ERA.
"I definitely take pride in throwing innings and being a guy you can rely on throughout the regular season," Lackey said. "My past postseasons aren't going to help me tomorrow. I have to prepare and I have to go there and do it again."
After taking a knee to the head in a frightening collision with teammate Peter Bourjos during a Sept. 28 game against the Pirates, it looked like left fielder Stephen Piscotty's season was over.
Piscotty, who was knocked unconscious on the play, was diagnosed with a concussion, but he passed major-league baseball's protocol test and returned to the field Sunday against the Atlanta Braves.
He is expected to start against the Cubs in Game 1, either in left field or first base.
"What a great story that we're able to sit up here and honestly say that we have run him through the paces on the medical side, and there are no reservations at all," said St. Louis manager Mike Matheny. "I have a soapbox here that I want to get on because this is a big deal. It's trauma to the brain. And when we saw that collision, I think there was a collective gasp all through not just Cardinal Nation, but baseball when you see something like that.
"It didn't look good. Stephen had to jump through all those hoops and appeased everybody and he feels great. He had some soreness there for a while, which is to be expected, but that's the benefit of these last few days here, to get his body recouped and now it's just back to baseball."