ST. LOUIS — After leaving Fenway — with the triangle in deep center, its short fence in the right field corner, and of course the Green Monster looming over things in left — everyone feels more comfortable in their own confines.
The Cardinals, though, have reason to feel especially comfy.
They’ve seen Dustin Pedroia bang one off the Wall and Carlos Beltran bang into the bullpen fence.
The ballpark is a living breathing element in every game. Busch Stadium, however, is a different animal.
“I believe our ballpark is very fair,” said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. “I don’t think there’s one thing that would make our team any more effective in this park than any other. I think the familiarity of it has a lot to say, obviously our home fans. That’s kind of the given. But it’s not like there’s the oddities, like a Green Monster or deep corners and gaps. It’s pretty fair. And I think most teams would say the same thing.’’
This season the Cardinals won 54 games at home, second only to the Atlanta Braves, who won 56.
It was their highest home win total since moving to the new Busch in 2006.
In the eight seasons since, no National League team has won more than their 385 home games.
As the World Series swings to St. Louis for Game 3 on Saturday with the Cardinals and Red Sox tied at one game apiece, the Cardinals couldn’t be happier to be home, where they’re 5-1 in the postseason.
“There’s always, for whatever reason, there’s just that comfort of being at home,” Matheny said. “And you have your home fans behind you. It’s going to be an exciting atmosphere. Tomorrow it’s going to be loud and the guys thrive on that. We try to say we’re going to go out and play the game the same way, no matter if there’s nobody in the stands or it’s packed with 50,000. And I do believe that’s true. But you can’t help but buy into the atmosphere, especially when you’re at home and every single thing you do gets such a positive response.
“So I know the guys are excited to get home last night and excited to get out there tomorrow.”
Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay tried not to let Fenway’s quirks affect how he played the field.
“It’s definitely a different ballpark, but I think when you look at every ballpark, it’s different in some way,” Jay said. “We had to play in San Francisco last year; that’s a different ballpark. You adjust to them. Both teams have to go out and play on them.’’
But there’s an obvious comfort level at Busch, which drew the second-most fans in baseball this season (41,602 per game).
“I think when you look at every team, they play better at home than on the road,” Jay said. “So it’s one of those things where we’re comfortable at home. But we also won some games on the road that we needed to win.
“We definitely like to play at home. It’s just a thing that it’s a comfort level. You have your fans and you’re familiar with the routine.”
Cardinals pitchers posted a 3.10 ERA at home, the fourth best in the major leagues.
The exception to the rule, however, is Game 3 starter Joe Kelly, who went 5-4 at home and 5-1 on the road.
But his best start of the postseason came in Game 1 of the NLCS at Busch when he gave up two runs in a 3-2 win over the Dodgers.
“We love playing here at Busch Stadium,” Kelly said. “It’s a sea of red and our fans are so great. They come out here and support us throughout the whole entire year. And to go to the postseason, we kind of do it for them, too. These guys, they’re just the best.
“And it’s fun when we play here. It’s home. You get to sleep in your own bed. You get to do what you normally do on a regular basis. If you get coffee in the morning, you go to your coffee shop. It’s just a comfort level to know that it’s your home away from your offseason home.”
In the postseason, the environment amplifies, Kelly said.
“I think the main difference is the crowd, the fans. The regular season we pack the house well, but in the postseason every strike is huge. Every out is huge. Every hit we get is big, even if we don’t score. I think that’s probably the main difference, is just the excitement and the atmosphere that’s going on in the stadium.’'Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.