ST. LOUIS -- Missed opportunities spoiled the Cardinals' attempts to wrap up the National League Championship Series in five games. But the fact that the club had offensive opportunities at all was at least a step in the right direction for a club still hitting below the Mendoza Line this postseason.
For the first time since Game 1 of the NL Division Series -- a game they won, 9-1, over the Pirates -- the Cardinals reached double digits in hits in their Game 5 NLCS loss on Wednesday. Eight of those hits came from the top four spots in the lineup, which had been a combined 8-for-63 in the first four games of the series.
"Yeah, I think we're seeing some better swings overall," manager Mike Matheny said on Thursday. "But as we've watched this team all season long, you can kind of sense when things are getting ready to click. We're getting a little closer there. It's been nice to have the pitching that we've had to be in the position that we're in right now without that offense. But that offense has been something that's been, I believe, a big, defining portion of our club this season."
The issue on Wednesday was that the Cardinals could not get the bottom half of their order going until the ninth inning, when it was too little, too late. Matheny likely will shuffle that part of the order for Game 6 on Friday (7:30 p.m. CT on TBS) because the Cardinals will be facing lefty Clayton Kershaw.
"Middle to the bottom, we have to step up and do what we do," David Freese said. "For the guys at the bottom, we have to start innings. I think last time against Kershaw, leading off with the double was big, and just kind of manufacturing runs. That's huge, obviously. When you can get the big guys going, that can put pressure on the starters."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.