10/02/2002 04:16 am ET
Matheny contributes with the bat
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
PHOENIX - How thoroughly did St. Louis hitters dominate the Division Series opener against Arizona?
Mike Matheny, the No. 8 hitter in the Cardinals lineup, reached base all three times he faced Randy Johnson with a walk, single and double. Matheny is one of the finest defensive catchers of this generation, as well as a skilled handler of pitchers. But he isn't exactly expected to reach base every time up against Randy Johnson.
And that's precisely the way he looked at it Tuesday night after the Cardinals had beaten the Diamondbacks, 12-2.
"You just don't expect that," Matheny said. "You want to go out and put up tough at-bats, that's the goal against a guy like him. And hopefully you get on base. If not, you fight off some good pitches and maybe run his pitch count up."
These are modest but at the same time realistic goals against a pitcher of Johnson's ability. The Cardinals had the usual hitters' meeting before the start of the series. But what could anybody possibly say about facing Johnson?
"Just dig in and let's go to war -- that's basically what it is," Matheny said. "His stuff is amazing. You know when Randy's on the mound, and Curt (Schilling) is the same way, you've got to come up with something special. We had some guys really take some good at-bats. Jimmy (Edmonds) got us going offensively, really sparking us (with a two-run homer in the first). After that, you just try to battle as long as you can and put up tough at-bats and see how things fall.
"Any time you see him out there, you're going to have to dig down deep, because you know it's going to be a long night. You know he's not going to give you a lot and he's got great stuff and he's a great competitor."
Matheny, who had two runs and two RBIs in Game 1, also did some damage after Johnson departed. With the bases loaded in the seventh, he dropped a beautiful bunt to the third-base side. Pitcher Greg Swindell's wild throw to first turned it into a two-run bunt and an 8-2 game. The play was scored a sacrifice and an error, but it looked better than that to the naked eye.
"It wasn't my idea, I can't take credit for that," Matheny said. "It was great coaching. (Third base coach) Jose Oquendo was really on top of it. He enlightened me to that idea.
"But that's the kind of thing that needs to work for us, doing the little things well."
The attention-getters for the St. Louis offense were the home runs hit by Edmonds and Scott Rolen. But the Cardinals beat Johnson and won going away because they got help throughout the lineup. Mike Matheny, batting eighth, and never being retired by Johnson, was as helpful as anybody.
Mike Bauman is a coliumnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.