As St. Louis Cardinals fans know all too well, the club’s offense almost completely dried up in Games 5 through 7 of the National League Championship Series. Including the final inning of their Game 4 win, the Cardinals scored just one tally over their final 28 innings of play in 2012.
By one inning, that drought broke the unenviable team record for the most consecutive post-season innings during which they scored one run or less. The previous mark was 27 innings, set in the 1996 NLCS.
With the help of researcher Tom Orf, we’ve pulled the prior five worst post-season offensive skids (by fewest runs scored over the most innings) by the Cardinals in team history. Every such streak concluded the respective series, with a resulting St. Louis exit. They are listed from most-recent to oldest.
In every case, the Cardinals lost at least three consecutive games in the process, including one opponent sweep, and they blew two other three games-to-one series leads. Four of the five prior cases were in the World Series.
2004 World Series – three runs in the last 28 innings
Trying to remove the Curse of Babe Ruth, the Red Sox faced the Cardinals in a rematch of the 1967 World Series. Boston broke a 7-7 tie to take Game 1 by an 11-9 score at Fenway Park.
As Boston rolled on to sweep St. Louis, the Cardinals plated just three runs in the final three games plus the last inning of Game 1. The Sox outscored the Cards 13-3 in those final three contests. The World Series ended with a 3-0 Boston shutout at Busch Stadium tossed by Derek Lowe and three relievers.
1996 NLCS – one run in the last 27 innings
This series was the closest to the level of offensive collapse as we saw in 2012.
Tony La Russa’s first Cardinals team reached the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. A great come-from-behind 4-3 win in Game 4 put the Cards up three games to one.
Over the final three games, the Cardinals offense went quiet, scoring just one run in the closing trio of defeats, a tally in the eighth inning of Game 6. The pitching fell apart as well, as St. Louis lost the final three contests by a combined score of 32-1.
1985 World Series – two runs in the last 30 innings
The Cardinals took a 3-1 lead over the Royals in the I-70 Series. From the fifth inning of their 3-0 Game 4 win through the end of the Series, the Cardinals plated just two runs – totaling 30 innings. That included losses in Games 5, 6 and 7.
Of course, Game 6 was the infamous Don Denkinger game, a contest won by the home Royals, 2-1. Still, needing just one more win, the Cardinals were blown out, 11-0, in Kansas City’s Game 7 victory.
1968 World Series – two runs in the last 26 innings
The Cards took a 3-0 lead in the first inning of Game 5 before Detroit came back for a 5-3 victory at Tiger Stadium. Returning home, St. Louis was dominated 13-1 in Game 6 before Mickey Lolich bested Gibson and the Cards by a 4-1 score in the deciding Game 7.
The Cardinals scored just two runs in their final 26 innings.
1943 World Series – three runs in the last 32 innings
The defending World Champion Cardinals split the first two games of the World Series at Yankee Stadium before taking a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning of Game 3, also in New York. St. Louis could not hold that edge, losing that contest by a 6-2 score.
Heading home did not help the offense, as the Cards were bested in Game 4, 2-1, and were shut out in the deciding Game 5, 2-0.
Overall, the 1943 Cards scored just three runs in their final 32 innings.
I also asked Tom to share the Cardinals longest post-season low-run scoring streaks that did not occur at the end of a series. Interestingly, all three happened during the Cardinals’ successful World Series run in 2006 – one in each post-season series.
2006 NLDS vs. San Diego – three runs in 21 innings (7th inning Game 1 to 9th inning Game 3)
2006 World Series vs. Detroit – one run in 15 innings (7th inning Game 1 to 3rd inning Game 3)