St. Louis had an early opportunity in the first inning with the bases loaded and none out, but Matt Adams struck out and Yadier Molina grounded into a double play to end the threat.
"I felt like they put together some pretty good at‑bats. Once again, those are winning components to baseball," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We had a couple opportunities to do something and just couldn't make it happen. Those usually come back to haunt you, and today they did.
"But once again, we make sure that we keep the message the same. These guys have done a tremendous job in those exact same situations all season long. You're going to have games where you just can't make it happen, and we've got to figure out a way to get it done the next time we get a chance."
That opportunity will come when the series moves to Busch Stadium for Game 6 on Friday (7:30 p.m. CT on TBS), with St. Louis holding a 3-2 advantage in the series.
And with Michael Wacha on the hill, the team knows it can get the job done. The Cards are 14-9 since 2000 in games they've had the possibility to clinch a series.
"Teams that get this far are always confident, they always believe," third baseman David Freese said. "Obviously you go through tough stretches individually, but I think when you've got 25 guys in the clubhouse, you can find a group of confidence that can carry over."
Even though St. Louis took the loss, it still managed to put together a rally in the ninth inning. With the team down by four runs, Matt Holliday began the inning with a double to right, before Adams singled him home. Another two singles by Jon Jay and Pete Kozma plated a second run.
"We tried to win today and it didn't happen," Molina said. "We lost and are going to be ready for the next game."
The Cardinals have been here before. Last season against the Giants in the NLCS, they were up 3-1 and wound up losing the series in seven games.
"We're not going to San Francisco, we're going home, so I think that's a big plus," Freese said. "But regardless, the Dodgers think they can win at our place and they're going to come out ready to go in Game 6. We've got to come in there, because I think both teams are going to want to jump ahead early."
The Cards remember what last year's defeat felt like, and they don't want to experience it again in back-to-back seasons.
"We have a one-game lead. We weren't expecting to come here and it be easy. That is why they play so well," right fielder Carlos Beltran said. "You credit them. We both have good pitching staffs. We have to find a way to battle and get it done."