ST. LOUIS — Carpets were still drying out from a champagne bath and a few players looked bleary eyed after a workout at Busch Stadium. A day after advancing, there wasn’t much time to rest for the St. Louis Cardinals.
“Obviously, it was a great celebration and a lot of fun,” reliever John Axford said Thursday. “The clubhouse guys, I don’t know if they even went home.”
The Los Angeles Dodgers don’t have home-field advantage in the NL championship series, but they got a few extra days to savor early postseason success. Zack Greinke was getting ready to go in Game 5, then went on stand-by, and now he guards against feeling too good in the opener tonight.
“Once we won it, it was just kind of make the best adjustments possible,” Greinke said. “I mean, there’s not much you can really do.”
No telling which side will benefit, the team on a roll or the team coming off a break. Joe Kelly, who flourished as a replacement starter with St. Louis and gets the call for Game 1, was elevated to the fifth starting spot and then waited almost two weeks before actually getting on the mound.
“You could be laid off for eight days and come out and play absolutely the best baseball you’ve ever done,” Kelly said. “You could come out and play the next day and not have a good game. This is all about execution.”
As a youth, Kelly was a budding skateboard star with a sponsor. Like other Cardinals youngsters, he’s seemed oblivious to the pressure.
“It’s Game 1 of the NLCS, but me being me, I’m going to go out there and just pitch like it’s another game,” he said.
The staff aces won’t go until later in the best-of-seven series, with the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw set for Game 2 and the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright ready for Game 3.
Rookie Michael Wacha goes in Game 2 for St. Louis.