John Lackey played the role of Mr. October on Friday.
Lackey threw 7 1/3 shutout innings and outdueled close friend Jon Lester in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 4-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
A crowd of 47,830, the second-largest in Busch Stadium III history, watched Lackey allow just two hits, walk one and strike out five to improve to 8-5 in the postseason and extended his string of scoreless innings in the playoffs to 12 1/3.
“Tonight was special, for sure. I felt pretty good tonight,” said Lackey, who used just 86 pitches, most of them fastballs. “It worked, mostly. We had a plan going in, for sure. They’re an aggressive team, and I knew they would be swinging. I don’t have a whole lot of tricks for them. We’re in the same division and I’ve been doing this a long time.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny loves Lackey’s steely-eyed resolve.
“When you get him into a big situation, he’s not going to scare,” Matheny said. “And he’s going to come out with better stuff when you turn up the heat, and that says a lot. You mix that with the kind of stuff he has right now, and he’s a top-tier pitcher.”
Fans also were treated to eighth-inning home runs by rookies Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty. Pham hit a pinch-hit home run off Jon Lester to make it 2-0, and Piscotty’s two-run homer against reliever Pedro Strop made it 4-0.
Pham became the third Cardinals rookie to homer in his first career postseason plate appearance. He was the fourth Cardinals rookie to homer in his first postseason game.
Piscotty became the Cardinals fifth rookie to homer in his first postseason game.
Cards strike first
Matt Holliday’s single in the first scored Piscotty, who dropped a ground-rule double inside the right-field line with one out, to make it 1-0.
It remained that way until Lester yielded Pham’s pinch-hit homer, a 431-foot drive to left, in the eighth. After Matt Carpenter walked, Piscotty connected on a 406-foot shot to left and enabled the large crowd to breathe easy for the first time in the game.
Kevin Siegrist got two strikeouts in the eighth in relief of Lackey, and Trevor Rosenthal worked a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation.
“We have a lot of faith in our bullpen to come in and do their thing on the back side, and Kevin Siegrist didn’t disappoint,” Matheny said. “He did a terrific job.”
Lester was solid in defeat. The left-hander allowed three runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings, with one walk and nine strikeouts.
Game 2 will be at 4:37 p.m. Saturday. Jaime Garcia will pitch for the Cardinals against the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks.