Heading into Friday’s matchup of John Lackey and Jon Lester in Game 1 of the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs, there was hope that the two friends could deliver a similar performance to what Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay delivered back in 2011. It wasn’t far off as the Cardinals won 4-0.

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“Incredible,” stated Mike Matheny. “You know, you put a guy in a situation like this, and we talk a lot about him being a big-game pitcher, about the experience he’s had, how he thrives in these situations, and then he just takes it there and goes a step further with just the way he competed today. I thought his fastball was as good as we’ve seen, period.”

“Tonight was special for sure, yeah, I felt pretty good tonight,” said Lackey. “Honestly, the atmosphere was outstanding tonight; the crowd was really into it. I knew I was going to have to pitch well because Lester threw the ball outstanding. He was really tough on our guys and did his thing as well, so it was tough, but just a really, really fun game. It was a great atmosphere and fun to be a part of.

Lackey had a no-hitter through his first five innings and finished with a line of 7.1 IP, 2 hits, BB, 5 Ks.

MLB: NLDS-Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals“He had good movement when he wanted it,” added Matheny. “He got the ground balls when he needed them. I thought the slider was very sharp. He used the top of the zone; he used the bottom of the zone. I think anything he wanted to do he pretty much had, and he controlled the counts and trusted the defense behind him. It was exactly what we needed, and I don’t know if you could ask him to do any more than what he did.”

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Yesterday, Lackey joked about “country stuff” bonding he and Lester. But after tonight’s game rookie Tommy Pham shared nickname for a different side of the veteran right-hander.

“I call him “OG” because he has that like relentless attitude out there,” said Pham, who homered in his playoff debut. “He’s fearless; he’s an original gangsta, sort of, you know? I mean, I’m an intense person and I see that he’s very intense, too, but he goes out there, and he gives you seven strong, you know? And that’s — that’s what any team could ask for. I mean, he’s just every outing, back to back, giving us quality starts. He’s tremendous.”

It was the fifth time in his career Lackey went 7.0 innings in a postseason game and he has now thrown 12.1 scoreless innings going back to Game 3 of the 2014 NLCS in San Francisco. Tonight he used just 86 pitches (56 strikes) which left many of the 47,830 sell-out crowd wanting him to be left in the game longer.

“We have a lot of faith in our bullpen to come in and do their thing on the backside, and Kevin Siegrist certainly didn’t disappoint,” explained Matheny, who indicated there was not a negotiation prior to the 8th inning. “Lackey just walked in, and he didn’t think that he was pulled at the right time.”

“Yeah,” chuckled Lackey when asked if he could’ve kept going. “We got those guys down there — we got some quality arms 8, 9-inning kind of guys, and we had a left-hander coming up, and that’s what the manager wanted to do right there, so I was — didn’t really say much about it. We just gotta win the game at this point in the season. It’s not about who gets it or how it gets done, just win the game.”

Lackey passed Randy Johnson (121.0) and moved into a tie with Jim Palmer (124.1) for most innings pitched in a postseason career.

photo credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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