Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: Sense of Urgency Could Make All the Difference

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: Sense of Urgency Could Make All the Difference

Article excerpt

Time is running out on the 2017 Cardinals, a team that stuck with struggling righthander Mike Leake on Saturday night against the Rays even though a chorus of critics ridiculed the decision.

Many fans and media interpreted Leake's presence on the Busch Stadium mound as a sign that the Cardinals have already given up on the 2017 season and started planning for 2018.

A team eager to catch the NL Central-leading Cubs wouldn't stubbornly hand the ball to a starting pitcher who had lost four consecutive decisions and entered Saturday with an 0-3 record and 10.31 ERA in August, the cynics decried.

Manager Mike Matheny won't buckle to outside pressure. Leake rewarded his confidence with a decent start to give the Cardinals a chance in the second game of a three-game interleague series. Then the ultimate grinder, Tommy Pham, walked it off with a two-run home run in the ninth to remind us why we shouldn't be so quick to doubt this gritty bunch.

"If we allowed ourselves to go on the roller coaster of taking the popular opinion of our team once again we would probably have packed up months ago," Matheny said. "It's just not accurate. We got to play the game. So does everybody else.

"We know when we're right we do feel like an unbeatable team. So let's get it right, and let's do it today and figure out a way to make the most of this game and then build on that."

Teams in the Cardinals' position need the front office, manager, coaches and players to approach each game with a sense of urgency at this time of year.

Considering the decision to start Leake instead of top pitching prospect Jack Flaherty, we had to ask Matheny if it was time for the Cardinals to play with a sense of urgency.

"I had that urgency in April," he said. "I think we have to have that kind of urgency all the time. We've got to be able to continue to push like this is the most important game of the year, and it is. You can't be more urgent than that. If you're playing this one like it is the game and the one that's deciding for our club, if you truly go about it in your preparation and your concentration and your intensity there's not another level.

"You're at that level. So that makes it easy with that expectation. You don't turn it up more now that we're getting close to September. You just expect that from yourself and your teammates all the way through. Every day you do your best to get to that spot."

To be fair, teams always appear more alive when they're winning. The Cardinals seemed to play with urgency and confidence during their season-high eight-game winning streak from Aug. 5-12.

The Cardinals have not won a series since that eight-game streak was snapped, though. Even worse, they've suffered some major injuries. Veteran righthander Adam Wainwright is on the 10-day disabled list with a right elbow injury. Closer Trevor Rosenthal is done for the season with an elbow injury that will require Tommy John surgery. …

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