LOS ANGELES -- The Cardinals' bullpen is stacked with young, hard-throwing right-handers, so Randy Choate often slides under the radar. But the lefty specialist is filling important roles -- as a reliever and mentor -- during the postseason.
"Randy has been a great addition to a very young bullpen where we needed some leadership, some experience down there," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Obviously the Dodgers know him well, what he brings, the ability to come in and face a tough left-hander and figure out how to make a tough at-bat an out."
And through two games of the National League Championship Series -- against a Dodgers team with some potent left-handed bats -- Choate has succeeded in getting those tough outs. The left-hander retired Carl Crawford both in the seventh inning of Game 1 and in the eighth inning of Game 2.
Pitching on the big, nationally televised October stage can overwhelm some, but Choate won a World Series with the Yankees in 2000 and is pitching in his fourth postseason -- a fact that helps him keep his composure.
"You're already going to be excited no matter what, and having been in it before, it helps you get some of the jitters out, although it's going to be there," Choate said. "Having that experience early in my career, at such a young age, and to be able to draw from that, Yankee Stadium -- it's just such a different beast. I was able to draw from a couple Octobers there, and it's been a big help."
The knowledge he has accumulated during his 13 years as a Major Leaguer has also benefited the rest of the Cardinals' bullpen.
"I do give Randy a lot of credit," Matheny said. "How much he's helped a young Kevin Siegrist and Sam Freeman and Tyler Lyons, and all the other guys that have made their way through this club from the left side, and trying to prepare them for the left-left matchup."
When Choate isn't using his experience to help out his younger teammates, his age (38) is often a source a humor within a much younger bullpen.
"I was driving a car when some of them were born -- or pretty close -- and all of them, they pretty much all throw 95-plus and I'm a good 10 miles under that," Choate said. "It makes for good times and keeps everybody loose."
Craig progresses, takes BP with Cardinals
LOS ANGELES -- With a handful of teammates cheering and chanting his name as he stepped to the plate, Allen Craig took another small step forward in his rehab process on Sunday, when he took batting practice during the Cardinals' workout at Dodger Stadium.
It was the first time Craig had participated in outdoor BP since he suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot on Sept. 4. He has been hitting off a tee for a few weeks in order to help preserve his core strength and took swings in the batting cage on Saturday. On Sunday, he brought it outside.
All this work is being done with the goal of having Craig ready if the Cardinals advance to the World Series.
"We're continuing to progress," Craig said after Sunday's workout. "They have new challenges for me every day. We'll see how it goes. My swing feels pretty good. Obviously, it's not game speed. But there are things that I'll do over the next week or so to try and get ready if we can advance. We have to focus on this series first before we get too far ahead."
For the second straight day, Craig also did some jogging in the outfield. The Cardinals have said they will be cautious in pushing Craig too far, too fast with mobility work. The first objective would be to have Craig ready as a pinch-hitter/designated hitter in the World Series. Being able to play him in the field would be seen as a bonus.
Cards know to expect Dodger Stadium energy
LOS ANGELES -- The Cardinals know full well what to expect when they enter what figures to be a raucous Dodger Stadium on Monday for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.
It was only four years ago, after all, that the Cards headed to Los Angeles as one of the postseason favorites, primed with a pair of aces -- Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright -- to open the NL Division Series.
But the Dodgers defended their home turf, winning both games en route to a sweep. They pounded Carpenter in the opener and rallied in the ninth for a walk-off victory in Game 2, aided by a pivotal Matt Holliday error.
"It was at that time that I understood what playoff baseball is like," said Cardinals third baseman David Freese, a reserve on the 2009 squad. "I think it helped me to understand how special this opportunity is. Tomorrow, when Carl Crawford walks out, it's going to be absolutely insane. It's going to be out of control."
Wainwright, who tamed the hostile crowd and tossed eight innings of one-run ball in the 2009 series, is hoping for a similar atmosphere during his start Monday night, saying, "the louder the better -- that plays right into my hands."
"Thinking back [to 2009], I know it's going to be rocking tomorrow," Wainwright said. "I don't know how many people are here, but it's a lot of fans, bigger than most stadiums, I think, and very loud. I love that though."
Playoff baseball in Los Angeles has not been kind to the Cardinals in the past. The Dodgers have won six of eight against St. Louis at Chavez Ravine, even though the Cards advanced in the other two postseason meetings between the two clubs.
Catcher Yadier Molina, who went 2-for-9 in Los Angeles during the 2009 NLDS, said he chooses not to remember much of what happened then. But he was quick to note just how much he enjoys playing in Los Angeles.
"Every time you play here against the Dodgers, it's good," Molina said. "The people, the history here is amazing. I love playing here."
• With assistant coach Bengie Molina doubling as a DJ, the Cardinals held an hour-long workout at Dodger Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Since the stadium speakers were quiet, Molina hooked up an iPod to a portable speaker so that batting practice could be held to tunes.
"We've just always been like this," Carlos Beltran said of the loose session. "This is the way we are. That's what it's all about. You need to have fun. It's the big leagues. In the big leagues, you're allowed to have fun, to play around."
• Only three other rookie pitchers have won their first two postseason starts with an ERA at least as low as that of Michael Wacha (0.64.), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That company includes Mike Boddicker (2-0, 0.00 in 1983), Dave Righetti (2-0, 0.00 in 1981) and Orlando Hernandez (2-0, 0.64 in 1998).
• Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said on Sunday that he was not yet sure whether ailing shortstop Hanley Ramirez or outfielder Andre Ethier would be in the Game 3 lineup on Monday.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.