ST. LOUIS – Clutch hitting deserted the St. Louis Cardinals in the postseason. The power arms that got them to the World Series finally gave out, too.
For the third straight year there’s satisfaction in the achievement of making a deep October run. They were close to a second title in 3 years, largely thanks to rookie Michael Wacha, and there’s no reason they can’t keep contending.
The way it ended, it felt as if they’d missed by a mile.
“Unfortunately, the offense during the playoffs, we just didn’t get it going,” Carlos Beltran said after the Cardinals went quietly in a 6-1 Game 6 loss Wednesday night. “Our pitching did a good job.”
The flameout brought back bitter memories from last fall, when the Cardinals had a 3-1 lead over San Francisco in the NLCS and got outscored 20-1 the rest of the way.
David Freese was the NLCS and World Series MVP in 2011, racking up 21 RBIs. He had one homer and four RBIs this postseason, and batted .158 against the Red Sox. Shortstops Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso combined for one single.
Jon Jay (.167) and Matt Adams (.136) contributed little. In the four losses to Boston, the Cardinals totaled five runs.
“It’s really hard to think about at this point, because it’s so rare and special to be on this stage,” manager Mike Matheny said. “And you hate to see anything slip away, not that we gave away – they took it.”
Without Wacha’s shutdown run, they would have never made it this far. Matheny made sure the kid knew that.
It might have been a matter of the Red Sox simply getting better looks the second time. Or the innings load taking its toll on the 22-year-old right-hander.
“The game is going to catch up with everybody,” Matheny said. “This kid has been absolutely fantastic.”
There’s plenty of blame to go around. That includes Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak for some puzzling roster decisions.
Shelby Miller led major league rookies with 15 wins, but pitched just one inning in the postseason, apparently due to concern about his innings load. Edward Mujica, who had 35 saves before falling apart in mid-September, apparently got a bullpen spot as a reward because he logged just two innings.
Before the division series, Matheny was asked what role Mujica would have and he answered cryptically: “Right-handed pitcher.”
Going forward, it appears the NL champions have plenty of payroll flexibility. They haven’t said whether they’ll seek a contract extension with Beltran, who would like to stay.
“They know, they know. I made it clear I want to come back,” said Beltran, who became a free agent Thursday. “But we have to see their plans.”