CHICAGO -- Jason Motte knows all about how tough St. Louis is, having worn Cardinal red from 2008-14, but he said there's no secret formula to the Redbirds' success. The reliever also said the Cubs are showing signs of the same resilience.
Want examples of St. Louis' ability to bounce back? On Sept. 5, 2011, the Cardinals were 10 1/2 games out of first place, yet they regrouped and went on to win the World Series. In Game 5 of the '12 National League Division Series, St. Louis trailed Washington, 6-0, after three innings in a game ace Adam Wainwright had started.
"It was almost like, 'OK, now what? Let's go.' It's just that mindset: 'We're not going to ever give up,'" Motte said of the Cards. "If you've got 'em down, you have to keep 'em down. You can't let them get back up."
St. Louis rallied, eventually winning, 9-7. Motte was the winning pitcher in relief.
Motte, now in Chicago's bullpen, is watching his former team flex its muscles again this season. After sweeping a three-game weekend series, the Cardinals are 29-7 at home and have an 11 1/2-game lead over the third-place Cubs.
On Friday, the Cards rallied for a 3-2, 10-inning win. It was the first time this season Chicago has lost when it had the lead in the eighth. In their nine meetings this season, the Cubs had led in six games, but only won two.
"You've got to be able to hold serve better," manager Joe Maddon said. "We're not playing badly, but they got us late. We left 12 runners on base [Friday]. We have to overcome that. We will. I know we will. I'd like to get it done sooner rather than later."
Maddon said the young club has to get over the "mental hump" against the Cardinals.
"I really think they beat us with their experience," Maddon said. "Every game to me, we're right there, and they come up with a hit and we don't. They make a pitch and we don't.
"We blink and they haven't, and that's what it comes down to. I know we're going to do this. I know we're going to get over the hump here. When you play with a young group like this, that's what shows to me more than anything. Skill-wise, ability-wise, I'm more than happy. We just have to beat them mentally. That happens by driving in the run somehow, making the pitch somehow, making the play somehow where we've just been a little bit short this year."
The Cards finished second in the NL Central in 2011 at 90-72. They beat the Phillies in the NL Division Series, the Brewers in the NL Championship Series and the Rangers, 4-3, in the World Series.
"When I was playing here, I'd see how they don't quit," Motte said. "I saw it in 2011 at the end of the year when we were 10 1/2 games back. We're like, 'You know what? Let's just go out there and play hard and see what happens.' [The attitude is] don't give up any at-bats, don't go up there and be content with, 'OK, we're losing, whatever, we'll get them tomorrow.' Go out there and play as if it's the last out."
When Maddon managed the Rays, Fenway Park was a tough place for his team to win, but they eventually overcame that "mental hump" he talks about.
"It takes a while," Maddon said. "I'd almost be more concerned if it flipped too easily, because then I'd be looking for the trap door somewhere. Right now, everything is progressing as it should.
"My history as a person in this game is nothing ever came relatively easy, and you had to wait patiently for things to arrive. I'm OK with that. As long as we go about our business properly, which I believe we are, and we have a group that cares, and they're skillful and good, I just know it's on the horizon."
Chicago does have nine walk-off wins this year at Wrigley Field. The club leads the Major Leagues in one-run games with 31, and it is 18-13 in those games.
The question is, can the Cubs be the Cardinals?
"We have that in us," Motte said. "This is a different Cubs team. It doesn't matter who we're playing, if it's [the Cards] or the last-place [team], it's, 'Go out there and ... do what we can do to win this game today.' If we're down -- who cares? We have the personnel to do it."