Up to his old tricks, Lackey shuts door on Cubs
ST. LOUIS -- When John Lackey made his first postseason appearance in 2002, he was pitching for Anaheim and Joe Maddon was the Angels' bench coach.
Cubs rookie Addison Russell was 8 years old when Lackey debuted in the playoffs. Kyle Schwarber was 9. Kris Bryant was 10.
Mirroring the real world, baseball is all about the young moving in and the old moving out.
Just two weeks shy of his 37th birthday, Lackey was back on the mound in October Friday night at Busch Stadium, but youth was not served.
"Incredible," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said after Lackey pitched St. Louis to a 4-0 win over the Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium. "We talk a lot about the experience he's had, how he thrives in these situations, and then he just takes it out there and takes it a step further."
Lackey didn't allow a hit until Russell led off the sixth inning with a single.
The right-hander wound up allowing 2 hits over 7⅓ innings before turning the game over to one of baseball's top bullpens.
When St. Louis scratched a run off Cubs starter Jon Lester in the first inning, you had a creeping feeling Lackey was going to make it hold up.
"He was just on," Maddon said. "He's been on since he's come over here; he's really gotten sharp again. That's how I saw him as a baby. He's hitting 94, 95 (mph). The velocity is back, and that sets everything else up. He's very aggressive with his fastball.
"He didn't even have to throw a whole of breaking stuff tonight, I didn't think. So his arm must feel good, because the velocity is there and his delivery is good."
With the Cardinals leading 1-0 in the sixth inning and Russell on third base with two outs, Dexter Fowler hit a deep drive to right field that Randal Grichuk caught in front of the wall.
That was about the extent of the Cubs' push against Lackey, who pounded home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi's expanded strike zone with his fastball.
"We had a plan going in for sure," Lackey said. "They're an aggressive team and I knew they would be swinging. I don't have a whole lot of tricks for them. We're in the same division and I've been doing this a long time, so you just have to try to locate and try to execute."
Lackey did just that, followed by Cardinals relievers Kevin Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal. When it was all over, the Cubs had only 3 hits and they struck out 10 times.
"I knew it was going to be a challenge," Lackey said after making the 22nd postseason appearance (19th start) of his career. "They're young, but they're talented. Talent can take you a lot of places, I don't care how old you are."
In Game 1, the older horse won the race.
"Tonight was special, for sure," Lackey said. "I felt pretty good tonight. Honestly, the atmosphere was outstanding, the crowd was really into it. I knew I was going to have to pitch well because Lester threw the ball outstanding.
"He was really tough on our guys and did his thing as well, so it was tough, but just a really, really fun game."
• Follow Scot's reports throughout the playoffs on Twitter @scotgregor.