Game 1 loss hardly reason for Cards to panic
St. Louis in familiar position as first playoff series, which it won
MILWAUKEE -- If Sunday afternoon looked familiar for the Cardinals, it's for good reason.
They were in a similar situation on Oct. 1 after dropping their first playoff game.
So being in a position to bounce back isn't anything new for St. Louis -- just the playoff round, and the stakes right now are a bit higher.
Boosted by a six-run fifth inning, the Brewers blew past the Cardinals, 9-6, in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park.
"It's a tough loss," Lance Berkman said. "I'm stating the obvious -- if you have a chance to win it, you better do it. We'll come back tomorrow and see what happens."
Working in the Cardinals' favor is they tend to rebound the next day.
They showed it against the Phillies.
On Oct. 1 at Philadelphia, the outcome stung.
The Cardinals opened their NL Division Series with an 11-6 loss in Game 1 at Citizens Bank Park. On that day, they scored three runs in the first inning.
On Sunday, they nabbed a one-run lead in the first, only to see it disappear in the bottom of the frame on Ryan Braun's two-run homer.
In Milwaukee's six-run fifth inning, Prince Fielder added a two-run homer.
"They have a quick-strike-type offense, especially with those two big guys in the middle," Berkman said. "With them, a lot can happen. It's always dangerous to put guys on base ahead of them, and they came through again."
What the Cardinals showed in the NLDS is the resolve they demonstrated while overcoming a 10 1/2-game deficit in the NL Wild Card standings to reach the postseason.
Even in Game 2 against the Phillies, they were trailing 4-0 going into the fourth inning. But they rallied to a 5-4 win, defeating Cliff Lee in the process.
So trailing a series by one game isn't sending off any panic alarms in the visitors' clubhouse in Milwaukee.
"Look at how we've been playing over the last six weeks," Albert Pujols said. "We've lost some tough games, and we bounced back. We did it against Philly. We did it the last two weeks of the season, when we needed a win.
"We're too good of a ballclub. This is a long series. Whoever wins four games is going to advance to the World Series. I can tell you, you can go on the other side and they will tell you, because of one game, this series is not over. There are a lot of games left."
The Cardinals' resolve is being tested, because the Brewers have been the toughest team in baseball at home. They won 57 games at Miller Park in the regular season and they are perfect in four playoff games at home.
Playoff pressure is obvious. But to David Freese, this October experience is fun.
"It's cool to be part of this," said Freese, whose three-run homer in the fourth put his team ahead, 4-2. "That's why you don't feel pressure, because it's so much fun out there."
If the Cardinals are to advance to the World Series, they will have to win at least one game in Milwaukee.
"I don't even think our backs are against the wall," Freese said. "I think [Monday] will define where we are at in the series. We'll go down 2-0 or tie it up before we go home. You've got to win four to move on. Getting the one tomorrow is pretty big."
While Game 1 was about offense, Pujols cautions that the series still could come down to pitching.
"If we get our bats going and they get their bats going, there are going to be a lot of runs," Pujols said. "But you also have some good pitchers in this series, and great bullpens. We'll see at the end of the day what the scoreboard says. I can't predict what we can do. All you can do is go out and play and see what the scoreboard says at the end."
Octavio Dotel points out that it's a long series.
"We have to understand that we're playing against a good team," the reliever said. "There's going to be some wins and some losses. Mentality wise, we've got to be strong and come back tomorrow. Just like they're very good, we're good too. We've just got to fight and see who's got better luck."