On paper, things were lining up perfectly for the Cardinals headed into last night’s NLCS Game 3. They’d beaten the Dodgers’ two star pitchers, and had Adam Wainwright on the mound. They were up 2-0 over a Los Angeles team that had struggled offensively even more than the Cardinals had, and they had a golden opportunity to put the first nail in the coffin.
Unfortunately, it’s games where the odds are with them that the Cardinals tend to struggle. And struggle they did.
They struggled individually — Jon Jay had one of (if not the) worst defensive nights of his career. The lack of communication in the outfield cost Wainwright two runs. But he wasn’t alone. Matt Carpenter continued to sputter at the plate. Daniel Descalso was doubled off second base on a play that never should have happened. Kolten Wong showed his inexperience, both with the bat and in the field. Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist had problems … you know, they actually gave up hits.
But they also struggled collectively. The entire Cardinals lineup managed just four hits on the night.
Instead of tightening the stranglehold a little more, they let their opponent off the hook. The Dodgers — and their fans — were energized. The worst thing a team can do when they’re up 2-0 in the series is to give the other team hope. LA has more than hope, now.
It was ugly, sure. The pressure now swings back to the Cardinals. But, it’s not all bad.
Here’s the good news:
- The Cardinals are still up 2-1 in the series.
- The Dodgers’ offense didn’t exactly explode. They scored three runs on nine hits, technically. But, give the same Cardinals outfielders the chance to make the plays they missed last night, and they’d probably make them eight times out of ten.
- No matter what happens tonight, the Cardinals have Kelly, Wacha and Wainwright slotted to go again in this series. They’ve fared well enough …
Unfortunately, there is a bit of bad news.
- Adam Wainwright was excellent last night, all for naught. It’s hard for him to be the juggernaut when the defense behind him can’t track down the balls put in play.
- The Cardinals created a few chances, but couldn’t capitalize — two on, nobody out in the top of the 5th, didn’t score. That kind of thing.
- Oh, yeah. The bench is really weak. Wong (hitless in four at bats this postseason)d and Adron Chambers (hitless in three at bats) pinch hit in the 8th inning to try to jumpstart a comeback. No luck there.
- Remember Descalso’s baserunning blunder? That happened after David Freese left the game after tweaking his right calf on a single to right field.
- Lance Lynn pitches today. …I wish that was good news. And it might still be. We just really don’t know.
- The Cards will have to face Greinke and Kershaw again. Sneaking out of St. Louis with two wins out of their starts was great. But, they did keep the offense mostly at bay.
- Speaking of offense … the Cardinals have scored just four runs in the first three games and none since the 5th inning of Game 2.
It’s hard not to have flashbacks of last year’s NLCS. The Cardinals looked in control. Things were going their way. And the, they didn’t. At all.
Certainly this is a different team, motivated by that night in San Francisco in the pouring rain. Nothing about this series is “over.” The Cardinals do still have the advantage. But, nothing about last night felt okay, either.
This isn’t the time to play scared. It’s the time to step on the gas and push through whatever nightmare yesterday was. As quickly as the momentum seemed to shift for LA, it can just as quickly shift back to St. Louis. A win today would push the Dodgers to the brink. That’s the control the Cardinals still have.
But, as good as the pitching has been, there’s one baseball fact that never changes: you lose 100% of the games in which you don’t score a run.
Tonight, the Cardinals must get good Lynn, and more importantly, they must rediscover their uncanny ability to score runs. In bunches would be nice …
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on twitter @tarawellman.