LOS ANGELES — The St. Louis Cardinals have been here before, just a year ago, leading the San Francisco Giants, three games to one, in the National League Championship Series.
The Cardinals dropped Game 5 at home, then proceeded to lose both at San Francisco. The Giants went on to win the World Series. This year’s situation is slightly different. The Cardinals, if necessary, have Games 6 and 7 at home, but their focus is to close out the NLCS Wednesday afternoon.
“I think the Giants last year did what they had to do,” Cardinals third baseman David Freese said. “When you get down to four teams, some crazy things can happen. We’re going to try to come out here [Wednesday] and finish this thing off. But I think you’ve got to be in attack mode.”
Right fielder Carlos Beltran said the Cardinals won’t think about that San Francisco series and will attempt capitalize on three chances to win the series.
“I think we’re all determined as a team,” Beltran said. “What happened last year is in the past. We have the opportunity to get it done. The Giants just played better than we did. You cannot take anything for granted.”
Yasiel Puig has been the center of controversy since he joined the Dodgers in June, especially with his in-game antics that have offended more than one opposing club.
During Monday’s Game 3, Puig was at it again with his emotions, raising both arms in the air after clubbing an Adam Wainwright pitch that bounced off the bullpen wall in the fourth. When the ball did not leave the park, Puig began running and when it was apparent he would arrive at third safely, he pumped his fast before touching the bag.
It was the game’s biggest hit, scoring the Dodgers’ second run after Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI double snapped a 22-inning scoreless streak. But his reaction drew an adverse reaction from the Cardinals, who, like many other clubs, appear tired of Puig’s demonstrations.
“He’s a good player, there is no question about it. Guys are going to handle successes and failure however they’re going to handle them, and that’s not really our say,” St Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “Where I stand and where our guys stand is that we take care of our own self. We take care of our business. We go out and play the game that we think we should be playing in a way that we think it should be played. Anything outside of that is not our responsibility.”
Puig said his actions are a byproduct of his Cuban roots.
“Everyone is really giving it their best. It’s their job to go out there and do the best they can just like it’s here in the big leagues,” Puig said through an interpreter. “The people in Cuba are born to play baseball, and that’s what you see on the field mostly.”
Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly was protective of his prized rookie.
“I heard a little bit of it, and Puig’s kind of being excited at third base. I also had zero problems the other day when they got out of the bases-loaded jam and Yadier [Molina] pumps his fist, I mean, when he gets out of a jam,” Mattingly said. “To me, that’s just baseball. Guys get excited. Again, I had zero problems with their celebration the way they do it, and I think our guys were excited that our backs were to the wall. They’ve been stopping us and shutting us down. [Puig’s] excited when he gets a hit. So, to me, it can’t be a double standard. So that’s the way I look at that part of it.”
Freese was back in the St. Louis lineup at third base after leaving Game 3 with calf tightness during the fifth inning. Matheny said it was more dehydration and cramping, and Freese passed all tests before the game. He was replaced in the sixth for defensive purposes . . . The Cardinals bullpen has not allowed a run in 14 innings in the series, an LCS record. The Texas bullpen tossed 13 scoreless frames against Detroit in 2011 . . . Shane Robinson was the first player to hit a pinch-hit home run for his first career postseason hit since Orlando Hudson on Oct. 21, 2009.Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe