Gonzales performing like postseason veteran
Rookie lefty highlights impressive bullpen work by Cardinals in Game 1 loss
ST. LOUIS -- Marco Gonzales, the baby-faced 22-year-old who began the season pitching in the Florida State League and has graduated to pitching on baseball's biggest stage, is past of the point of pinching himself over his rapid ascension.
However, the left-hander says there's something much bigger ahead of him and his teammates: "It's great to be here, but we need some wins."
The Cardinals certainly do after dropping a 3-0 decision to the Giants in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium, even though Gonzales and other members of the bullpen crew did their part to keep it close.
"The main objective is to get outs and keep us in the game," Gonzales said.
Gonzales helped bail starting pitcher Adam Wainwright -- who dresses directly next to the rookie in the Cardinals' clubhouse -- out of a potentially-sticky situation in the fifth inning as part of a yet another impressive postseason appearance.
Gonzales, who came into the game with two playoff victories and three scoreless innings from the NLDS against the Dodgers, tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings as four relief pitchers combined to limit the Giants to two hits over the final 4 1/3 innings.
Seth Maness tossed two scoreless innings and came away impressed -- again -- with how well Gonzales, the team's first-round pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, handled himself in high-leverage situations.
"In the playoffs, you have to be ready for anything," Maness said. "That means everyone has to pick up each other and just keep on battling. Marco has been doing a great job all year."
With the Cardinals trailing, 3-0, Wainwright put two on with two outs and manager Mike Matheny went to his bullpen for Gonzales to face the left-handed-hitting Brandon Crawford.
Gonzales needed eight pitches -- Crawford did manage to foul off three pitches -- before getting him to hit a slider down to first baseman Matt Adams, who carried the ball to the bag for the final out of the inning.
"I wanted to get ahead early with the fastball and utilize my cutter," Gonzales said when asked how he went about pitching to Crawford, who actually hit .320 against left-handed pitching during the regular season.
"I wanted to make sure I didn't find a barrel. I wasn't going to give him anything out over the plate to hit."
The Cardinals' bullpen has compiled a 2.20 ERA in 16 1/3 innings during the postseason. This was the second time it has had to work more than four innings. The other, of course, was when Wainwright was hit hard against the Dodgers on Oct. 3, when he allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings.