WASHINGTON -- Mike Matheny is wearing a different hat -- only figuratively speaking -- in his newest role with the Cardinals, but the first-year skipper says playoff excitement remains the same as it was when he was playing for the Redbirds.

The 42-year-old manager has steered St. Louis to the postseason in his first year at the helm, after appearing in the playoffs four times during a 13-year playing career that included five seasons with the Cardinals.

"It is a great environment, and I love it just as much as a manager as I did as a player," Matheny said. "There's nothing like it in the game, to be able to be a part of postseason baseball."

Matheny was a four-time Gold Glove Award-winning catcher who helped lead the Cardinals to four National League Central titles -- and one NL pennant -- in five years from 2000-04.

He's had no shortage of excitement to manage the Cards through this year, as the club fought for the second and final NL Wild Card spot through the end of the regular season. That battle, Matheny says, has helped the team's mindset through the playoffs.

"He's done a great job of keeping us in the moment and not worrying about things outside of our control," starting pitcher Kyle Lohse said. "It's kind of really been a continuation of what we had last year with Tony [La Russa]. He's done a great job of handling the team, handling the pressure, knowing what comes along, that [the media is] going to second-guess a lot of things. He stays true to himself and does what he believes needs to be done."

Cards rookies hold their own with Lynn unavailable

WASHINGTON -- With Lance Lynn unavailable on Wednesday, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny turned to rookies Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly as expected.

Lynn threw 50 pitches in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Monday in St. Louis, and the 18-game winner is a likely candidate to step in for the injured Jaime Garcia should the Cards advance to the NL Championship Series. Matheny also said Lynn could pitch in Game 4 on Thursday or a potential Game 5 on Friday.

Wild Card vs. Nationals

In the meantime, Matheny relied on Kelly and Rosenthal -- part of a formidable trio of rookie bullpen arms that also includes Shelby Miller -- to work the late innings of Wednesday's 8-0 blowout.

"Anytime you get out here in this situation, especially in postseason games, there are some nerves going," Rosenthal said. "You're excited to be there, first of all, and want to come through and help the team win."

Rosenthal threw 1 1/3 innings, striking out one. Kelly pitched the ninth, walking a batter and also recording a strikeout.

"It just keeps building my confidence," Rosenthal said. "I've been very fortunate to have success so far, and hopefully I'll just keep building off of that. It's exciting that they are letting me go out there and that they think I'm capable of doing the job. I want to go out there and try to prove them right every time."

After Garcia was shut down Tuesday with a rotator cuff strain and inflammation, it became likely that Lynn would take his place in the rotation. But if Lynn is needed in this series, he'd then be unlikely to start Game 1 of the NLCS if St. Louis advanced.

"I wouldn't rule him out for [Thursday] and I wouldn't rule him out any further past that," Matheny said of Lynn. "But right now, after throwing 50 pitches and throwing the day before, we are going to have to be careful with him."

Keeping reserves sharp a balancing act for Cards

WASHINGTON -- Manager Mike Matheny has not deviated from his favored starting lineup in any of the team's four postseason games so far. While such batting order consistency is certainly the first-year manager's preference, it has left the Cardinals' bench players the tough task of staying sharp without regular playing time.

"I have put them in a tough spot, but they have been making up for it and getting extra work and doing more to be prepared, and that's all they can do," Matheny said of his five-man bench. "We are going to continue to try and get them in there, but when things are going as they are, we need to ride out what gives us the best opportunity each night."

Matheny's three most utilized bench players -- Matt Carpenter, Shane Robinson and Skip Schumaker -- have accrued a combined seven at-bats through the team's first three playoff games. Only Carpenter has a hit, that coming in Friday's National League Wild Card game against the Braves.

The limited playing time hasn't been a recent development either. Because the Cards had to fend off the Dodgers in the Wild Card race until the second-to-last day of the regular season, Matheny had few opportunities to plug his bench players into starting spots in September.

Robinson, for instance, has made one start since Sept. 5. Schumaker has earned four since Sept. 15. Only Carpenter was able to start regularly down the stretch, that due to a late-season ankle injury to David Freese.

"I've said it a couple times: That's something down the stretch, I would have liked to have been able to do better was to keep the bench sharp," Matheny said. "But we felt like we were fighting for our lives every game all the way through the end of September and didn't really have the opportunity to change something when it was going well, and we found a good fit. [There are a few players] we need to keep sharp to be able to come off the bench and give us valuable at-bats."