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Cardinals must cash in to save season

Cards must cash in to save season

LOS ANGELES -- At some point, the Cardinals will start driving runners in. The law of average assures us of that. However, the question remains: Will it be nothing more than too little, too late?

Matt Holliday and Ryan Franklin dually agreed to share the blame after the Cardinals' gut-wrenching 3-2 loss to the Dodgers in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Thursday. It was, of course, Holliday's error and Franklin's inability to negate it that resulted in an L.A. walk-off win.

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But the Cardinals hardly find themselves staring at three must-win games because of one misplayed fly ball and two unearned runs. Blame, in fact, could be shared by nearly everyone who picked up a bat in Games 1 and 2.

"[You] really can't point our finger at that," Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan said of Holliday's ninth-inning blunder. "I had chances to drive somebody in, and I didn't come through. We've just got to put more runs on the board. That's been the problem."

Bingo. The numbers are startling, even for a team that ranked in the middle of the pack with a .264 batting average with runners in scoring position this season.

In Game 1, the Cardinals left 14 runners on base in a game when they came through with just three hits in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position. As bad as that execution may have been, it was even worse in Game 2. Though St. Louis left only half as many runners on, the fact that the Cardinals went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position allowed the Dodgers to stay in the game, long enough to pounce for the victory at the last possible minute.

"Right now I think it's important to get upset about the game that got away," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "We did a lot to win that one and didn't win it."

0-2 Division Series deficits
Only four teams have come back from an 0-2 deficit to win a Division Series, all of them from the American League.
Year Team Opponent
1995 Mariners Yankees
1999 Red Sox Indians
2001 Yankees A's
2003 Red Sox A's

Considering the Dodgers have outscored the Cardinals by only three runs in their two wins, a hit here, a hit there, and St. Louis could very well have been heading back home one win away from sealing its spot in the NLCS. At the very least, the series could have been tied.

Oh, what might have been. Instead we have what is -- and the Cardinals now have the unenviable quest of trying to become the first National League team to come back and win a best-of-five series after falling behind 0-2. Four American League teams have done it, most recently the Red Sox in 2003.

For nine years now, St. Louis has relied on Albert Pujols to be that spark, the one always reliable presence when it comes to driving runners home. Yet, if this team has any hope of chiseling its way back into the series, it's going to have to be Pujols' supporting cast that steps up.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre has made it no secret that if his club is going to get beaten, it's going to be by one of the 24 players not with the No. 5 on his back.

Division Series
Gm. 1LAD 5, STL 3WrapVideo
Gm. 2LAD 3, STL 2WrapVideo
Gm. 3LAD 5, STL 1WrapVideo

Torre called for Pujols to be intentionally walked with runners in scoring position twice on Wednesday, including once in the first inning. In the fourth inning on Thursday, he did so again, even when it meant that Holliday -- who had one inning earlier put the Cardinals up, 1-0, with a home run -- would step to the plate with the potential to drive in two baserunners.

"You know, to me he can do so much damage," Torre said of Pujols. "As I said many times, Albert is in a class by himself. I think Albert is such a threat that you are willing to put the winning run on base. You're willing to give them an opportunity to hit a three-run homer instead of a two-run homer. I just want to make somebody else beat me, basically."

And so far, nobody has.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["division_series" ] }
{"content":["division_series" ] }