The Cardinals were feeling good about themselves after they came from behind to win Game 2 at Fenway Park, tying the World Series at one game each. They were feeling even better after Saturday's wild Game 3 victory, which gave them the series lead and -- if they could continue to play as well at home as they had all year -- possibly even win the title in front of their loyal, and rabid, fans.
But you know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men.
Now, two home losses later, they're facing the daunting task of having to win two games at Fenway to pull out the Series. They trail the best-of-seven series, 3 games to 2, after Monday's 3-1 loss in Game 5. No team has won a World Series title with Games 6 and 7 victories on the road since the 1979 Pirates, and it's only been done six times overall in MLB history.
Still, they were able to come back from a 3-2 World Series deficit two years ago against the Rangers -- although the last two games were at Busch Stadium -- and manager Mike Matheny thinks that experience will serve them well.
"You know, our guys have been backed up against the wall before, and this is something that isn't foreign to them," said Matheny. "They know what we have to do. We just [have to] play our game. If we go about it the right way, we'll be right where we want to be.
"Now, would it be in a better position if we won tonight? Absolutely. But once again, this isn't some place they haven't been before. Go out and play the game. Try not to make too much of it. Not get too far ahead of ourselves, and get back to the kind of baseball we know we can play and put together those tough at‑bats."
While he doesn't want his team to "make too much of it," Matheny also doesn't want them to underestimate the task -- winning two games at Fenway -- that lies ahead.
"I think it starts with a mentality that it's a great challenge," he said. "It's a great opportunity for us to go in and prove the kind of team we are as far as how tough we are mentally, and I think that's where it begins. After that it comes down to execution . . .
"They have to lock arms, trust each other and play the game the right way. Most of it is going to be the mentality of not buying into any kind of stats, any kind of predictions, any kind of odds. And go out and play the game."