Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina called a team meeting during St. Louis’s last series against the Nationals. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

When the Nationals visited St. Louis for the penultimate series of the regular season just over a week ago, they met a Cardinals squad that felt it had something to prove. 

Veteran catcher Yadier Molina called a team meeting prior to the game on Sept. 28 to remind the Cardinals that they needed to show Washington their true selves. When the teams met for the first time this season, from Aug. 30-Sept. 2, St. Louis dropped three of four and was outscored 32-11.

“It was just sloppy. We looked dead. Really one of the few times this season we didn’t look to have the energy level that we normally have,” Manager Mike Matheny said Sunday.

Molina “made a strong statement and the guys responded and that seems to be pretty consistent with him,” Matheny said. “When he does say something, which isn’t often, when he does, people stop and they listen to him.”

The Cardinals heeded their catcher’s advice. St. Louis claimed two of the three games in late September, handing the Nationals decisive 12-2 and 10-4 losses at Busch Stadium. 

It offered a welcome psychological boost for the Cardinals — one that may pay off now as the two teams kick off the NLDS.

“It was huge.  They came in here ‑‑ they have one of the best teams in the National League [this] year, they have a really young, talented team and it was huge for us knowing that we can compete and we can go out there and win some ballgames,” said Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia, who is slated to start Game 2 Monday. “But at the same time, postseason is different, and now we’ve got to lock it in today and go out there and try to win the ballgame.”