Cubs players celebrate after winning Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals in October. | Nam Y. Huh/AP

Cubs-Cardinals rivalry takes on a whole new tone

SHARE Cubs-Cardinals rivalry takes on a whole new tone
SHARE Cubs-Cardinals rivalry takes on a whole new tone

Forget everything you knew about the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.

Anything that happened before last fall doesn’t matter. And anything that happens after that historic National League Division Series figures to take on a tone never seen before.

It wasn’t just that the third-place Cubs eliminated the NL Central champion Cardinals in four games last October. Or that they stole talented outfielder Jason Heyward or veteran pitcher John Lackey, who starts the series opener Monday in St. Louis.

It was all of that and more.

‘‘I don’t know what it’ll be like,’’ Heyward said Sunday. ‘‘They can burn the jersey and do whatever they want. We just will play.’’

Heyward was referring to the actions of some Cardinals fans who torched his jerseys after the All-Star signed with the Cubs.

‘‘It’s not good for your children to see things like that,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘Why would you do something like that? I’m sure the real Cardinals fans wanted nothing to do with that.’’

Maddon, who grew up a Cards fan, likes the intensity of the rivalry — and pushed his team’s competitive buttons last year, knowing what it takes to beat a perennial champ.

‘‘Nobody’s going to give you anything, man, and I don’t expect it,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘If you want to ascend, you have to take that. It’s not going to be given to you. I thought last year we didn’t necessarily understand that.

‘‘They’re good and have been for a long time, and they’re not going to relinquish anything. That was my point. Not to denigrate anyone, it was about us and our ascension and how you do it.’’

Heyward said not all Cardinals fans have been rough on him.

‘‘Many St. Louis fans I’ve seen have gone out of their way to wish me well,’’ he said.

Pen pressure

According to Maddon, handling the bullpen is a manager’s most critical daily task.

‘‘Those are the guys who are going to control our fate,’’ he said. ‘‘They are the difference-makers.’’

The bullpen has matched the team’s strong start, with a 2.39 ERA, 27 strikeouts and only five walks in 26⅓ innings. The relief corps has pitched the fourth-fewest innings in the majors.

Limiting pitchers’ mental fatigue as much as physical fatigue is vital, Maddon believes.

‘‘My first year in the big leagues was as a bullpen coach,’’ he said. ‘‘I got an appreciation of every time these guys come into a game, something’s going on. They don’t have this opportunity to work their way into it. It’s ‘now.’

‘‘One of the things that isn’t discussed enough is the emotional component, the emotional energy expended daily. They’re in this high-leverage moment all the time, and that can weigh you down, too.

‘‘The fact we have more late-inning guys here hopefully will spread the load around.’’

Catch ’em

Catcher David Ross threw out Trevor Story attempting to steal second base in the first inning and Gerardo Parra in the second. It was the first time he’d caught two baserunners since June 22 last season against the Dodgers.

Follow me on Twitter @toniginnetti.

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