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TCN Blog 2012 Cardinals top story #2: The NLCS collapse

The greatest disappointment of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2012 season occurred in their highest level of play as they fell to the eventual World Champion San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series in seven games.

After having taken the one-game wild card competition in Atlanta, the Cardinals dispatched the Washington Nationals in their Division Series. In the other NLDS matchup, San Francisco eliminated NL Central champ Cincinnati.

The Cardinals sprinted out to a three games-to-one lead over San Francisco, only to drop pivotal Game 5 at home. Returning to San Francisco, the Cardinals scored just one run in their final two lopsided losses to end the season with a whimper.

LCS Games 1 and 2 were in San Francisco. The Cardinals took a 1-0 lead thanks to two-run home runs from David Freese and Carlos Beltran, as well as 5 1/3 scoreless innings from the bullpen. Jason Motte closed out the 6-4 win to earn his second save of the postseason.

The Giants defeated the Cardinals 7-1 in Game 2 as Ryan Vogelsong allowed just one run in seven innings. Chris Carpenter took the loss, though all four of his fourth-inning runs were unearned following errors by Carpenter and Matt Holliday.

The Cardinals returned home to take Games 3 and 4 and set up a possible elimination Game 5, also in St. Louis.

The big blow in the Cardinals’ 3-1 Game 3 win came in the third inning when Matt Carpenter, brought into the game in the second inning to replace injured Carlos Beltran (left knee strain), blasted a two-run home run off Giants starter Matt Cain. Kyle Lohse allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings to earn the victory. Motte tossed two scoreless innings for his third save of the postseason.

The Cardinals handled the Giants by an 8-3 score in Game 4. Adam Wainwright allowed just one run in seven innings to earn the win. Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Yadier Molina each had two RBI.

With Jaime Garcia unavailable due to a shoulder injury, Lance Lynn was given the ball for the all-important Game 5, the final contest at Busch Stadium. The right-hander could not get out of the fourth inning, in part due to his own throwing error. The Giants went on to shut out the Cardinals 5-0 on just six hits. Soft-tossing veteran Barry Zito pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Returning to San Francisco, the Giants embarrassed the Cardinals in winning Games 6 and 7 by a combined score of 15-1.

In Game 6, Ryan Vogelsong tossed seven innings of one-run ball with a career-high nine strikeouts to earn his second win of the series. Allen Craig drove in the Cardinals only run with a two-out RBI single in the sixth, which scored Carlos Beltran after he doubled. It was the Cardinals only extra-base hit in the Giants’ 6-1 victory. Chris Carpenter took the loss.

The Cards were spanked 9-0 in Game 7, which ended with the Giants celebrating in a downpour. Lohse, the Cards’ most dependable pitcher all year, just didn’t have it, allowing five runs in just two innings. Yadier Molina had four hits, with the rest of his teammates combined managing just three. Matt Cain earned the win for San Francisco with 5 2/3 innings of scoreless ball.

In the LCS, Molina hit .393 (11-for-28) with one double, two RBI and two runs scored. Beltran had four extra-base hits among his six safeties while batting .300. In limited duty, Matt Carpenter went 3-for-9 (.333), including a double, home run and two RBI.

Despite batting just .207, Jon Jay’s modest total of three RBI led the club in the LCS. As a team, the Cardinals batted just .217 in the seven games.

In the LCS, the Cardinals run producers didn’t produce. Cleanup hitter Craig had a dismal series, with just three hits in 24 at-bats (.125). Holliday struggled with back soreness that kept him out of Game 6. The number three hitter batted just .200, with five singles in 25 at-bats. 2011 hero David Freese had a .192 LCS average.

The magic ran out on LDS standouts Daniel Descalso (.200) and Pete Kozma (.237), as well, with the latter exposed defensively. The shortstop committed two errors and made several other key miscues.

Relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica were the only unscored-upon Cardinals pitchers, combining for 9 1/3 frames of zeroes. Adam Wainwright allowed just one run in seven innings.

Through four games of the NLCS, St. Louis held a commanding three-games-to-one lead. With Game 5 scheduled at home, the Cardinals had the clear edge. However, the pitching, hitting and defense together failed them at the worst possible time.

Overall, the staff ERA was 3.75, but that doesn’t tell the story. In the final three losses, the combined ERA of starters Lynn, Carpenter and Lohse was over eight. The NLCS record-setting 10 unearned runs allowed by the Cards shaky defense were key in the Game 2, 5 and 6 losses, two of which were absorbed by 2011 post-season ace Carpenter. The offense scored just one run over their last 28 innings, the longest such dry stretch in team post-season history.

It was the fourth time in team history the Cardinals dropped a post-season series after leading three games to one. The others were in the 1968 World Series, 1985 World Series and 1996 NLCS.

Still, manager Mike Matheny’s first club finished 2012 just one win short of returning to the World Series and was eliminated by the soon-to-be new champion.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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15 Responses to “TCN Blog 2012 Cardinals top story #2: The NLCS collapse”

  1. blingboy says:

    I haven’t read the article yet. Sorry, just too depressing. I’m sure Brian will go back to good news for the top story.

    So Murph ends up working for Luhnow, surprise, surprise. If you have trouble getting a hot dog this year you’ll know where all the venders are. I hope they don’t even win 50 games this year.

    5 weeks til pitchers and catchers report.

  2. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    The Giants had there problems…. We helped them clear their heads to coin an expression….. Does anyone wonder why the Cardinals were so dominate in game 4?……………. The game plan was to stay back, shorten up, and go off field or middle…….. just to stress Timmy…….. in other words, we played baseball…………. that was a collective…..everyone on board adjustment to the current team doctrine….. it was such a quality game by us….review the AB’s is you have MLB TV …….. game 5 was a return to normal…….. chasing Zito instead of just disposing of him with the same tactic…… that ended the series right there because the Giants figured something out ………. In Game 7 …Matheny was given the theme by the FO……. a different style of ball…………. I was at that game…….. If you watch, you will see Matheny scramble the Pen in the 3rd……after Scutro hit a pitch 6 inches out side OPO to lead off…Sandoval does the same thing hitting the double OPO……….. they knew what they were about….. Matheny starts using delaying tactics……….but you will notice him whistling at Yadi who would not look over there….. Matheny was p–sed…… Yadi even more so … the tactic was revealed………the Tony hook…….Kelly was the man……..3 pitches…..3 hits and its over……… Then it was a route…………… in the second we go single/ double….big man Descalso somehow goes down….Kozma……….swinging for a career builder fails to make contact……… Lohse’s flare was picked off on the game ending play………….if we take the lead there its a completely different game…… Was Kozma wrong..????…. I don’t fault him for knowing the truth about his situation….Danny too…. the Tony tactic with Lohse came from the “tacticians”…………. Molina saw the complications in that himself…………. bottom line……….. they were the best team because they did what they needed……..we followed the planning……and perished…… and that is the story………..if you have problems with it…….they are your problems……not mine……it will be worse this year…… not better………… Mark has young kids…….he has money……. they didn’t come out because he was never sure……….. in the end, he didn’t like what was being done with his approach either ………. with the hiring of Molina as assistant hitting coach……… a powerful statement of change was made……. incredible where this ends up……….

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      I reviewed this puppy again………………… Danny did make a good contact swing in the second. It just didn’t work. ……………… Lohse was up and hanging everything….. I still let him pitch to Pentz looking for the DP……………… Kelly got worked by Kozma who made 3 bad plays in the third …….. that’s life……….. I thought we pressured Cain……… Holiday just missed a few……….Craig hit a gap’r that was ran down………… tough place to play for money……… Pete goes for for the Freese effect and has maybe the worst 45 minutes in playoff history……… I hope he finds what he needs…..seems like a nice kid…

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    A “Collapse” is far from what took place. The Cards lost Games 6 and 7 on the road in San Francisco against top flight pitchers in Cain and Vogelsong. Easy to understand those losses The Giants should have been quite favored in each game. .

    The key game was #5. Zito makes $16MM/yr and was matched up against inexperienced Lance Lynn. Zito rose to the occasion and did a fine job, on the road. He deserves credit. They pay him enough, he should deliver every now and then.

    Only one team could win. The Giants pitched better and had a balanced lineup and some Cards hitters seemed tuckered out. Hardly a collapse. Just baseball.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Zito’s salary is completely irrelevant. But if you want to discuss it, most people would agree his is one of the very worst contracts in baseball. Yet, he dominated a huge game on the road when it mattered most. I give him credit for that.

      Games 6 and 7: Giants 15, Cardinals 1. Cain faced a proven post-season hero in Carpenter in G6. The Cards had their best 2012 pitcher going in G7 in Lohse. Most would believe he is a superior pitcher to Vogelsong.

      Blowing a three games to one lead might not be characterized as a collapse had the team been competitive in the final three losses, but they weren’t. Their pitching, hitting and defense all struggled at the same time.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        They went for the kill in the third. A team that was showing patients…….attacked the first pitch twice…….. going away…..surprise attack….. that was a very deliberate tactic……. He went full with Buster but couldn’t give in with DP Penz on deck……… Matheny was prepped for that move which I believe enhanced it usage. …….. Molina didn’t like it, amongst others………… Kelly’s ball had good life, but he wasn’t the strikeout guy they needed after having pressed the panic button…..that was also discussed no doubt……. Eward with the “fork” or Rosenthal with the heat seemed preferable…….. Playing Holiday who was medicated for the back was also questionable to me……MC had hit Cain earlier……. way to many choices being made for “appearances” …….

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Chris Carpenter spent most of 2012 on the DL. His heroics of the past are, to use your own words, “completely irrelevant.”
        Cain and Vogelsong, at home, against Carpenter and Lohse are very good match-ups for the Giants and it was not at all a surprise that the Giants prevailed in those games. When one team has a marked pitching advantage, it can make the other look bad.

        For the Cards to win the Series, everything hinged on Game 5. We were at home, but could do nothing against the wily, composed vet Zito. Good sports doff their caps. Zito earned a big contract. Big contracts often do not turn out well for the paying team. In 2012, Zito improved and in the playoffs, he delivered.

        When we lost the 1985 Series to the Royals, did the Cards collapse or did Deckinger blow a call, breaking a 59 game streak during which the Cards prevailed entering the 9th inning with a lead?

        • Brian Walton says:

          Jumbo, I will post number one shortly. It is a happy story – the only kind you can apparently deal with.

          P.S. If you can stomach it, simply Google the three words, “cardinals giants collapse,” and check out the sources. Page 1 of the results include articles from ESPN, USA TODAY, and newspapers from both St. Louis and San Francisco. Headline from the Post-Dispatch: “Cards’ collapse is complete.”

          • crdswmn says:

            It was definitely a collapse. like a 6 inches from first down and deciding to punt kind of collapse. Still don’t understand what happened.

            • JumboShrimp says:

              What happened was that a stronger team got on a good roll, won 7 in a row, and the Series crown.

              It was understandably very frustrating for Cards fans, to get close, then have victory denied them. And by the likes of Barry Zito, of all people, who his manager trusted less than Lincecum.

              But sometimes, when its for all the marbles, the hitters are amped up, pitchers are firing their hardest, and then along comes an overpaid lefty throwing junk and we can’t do any damage against him, even at home.

              I remember back in 2008, we beat him in St Louis behind journeyman Todd Wellemeyer. It was funny at the time that a bullpen discard from the last place Royals could best the hugely paid Zito.

              In 2012, its not as funny, when Zito, spinning the same junk, comes into your house and shuts you down. There went the Series, in Game 5. The Giants had big pitching advantages at home for games 6/7, so we would have needed a few rally squirrels and other luck to prevail in one of those games.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          Thud: birds fall to earth after flying high
          Thrashed: Giants wallop Cards
          Feeble Finish
          Birds out of Gas

          These are titles that sound fairer to me. With such titles, I acknowledge the Giants were the better team. Collapse sounds like the opponent does not exist. We cannot lose unless we collapse or choke. This attributes all blame to the good guys, whereas we got thrashed by a stronger team. I would acknowledge a dismal ending, plus salute the Series winners of 2010 and 2012.

      • blingboy says:

        “Zito’s salary is completely irrelevant. But if you want to discuss it, most people would agree his is one of the very worst contracts in baseball.”

        Locking up a veteran ace to ancor the staff and be the guy to stop a losing streak probably seemed like a good plan when they signed him to the big money long term contract. They probably wished they’d have taken their chances with younger, cheaper guys.

        • Brian Walton says:

          I wonder if the Cards would let Waino walk if they KNEW that Miller and Rosenthal would be as good as Lincecum and Cain turned out to be. Of course, no one can see the future.

          • blingboy says:

            The Giants were smart to keep Tim short term. In 2012 he got $18M to lose more games than anyone on the Cardinals staff. Cain only made $15M last year and he almost won as many games as Lance Lynn. Combined they will get $42M this coming year. Maybe they will win 26 games between them again like last year. That was 3 more wins than Lynn and Kelly. Of course, they lost 6 more, but then, they only made $33M for 2012. Maybe they will have better luck stacking up against Miller and Rosenthal. If not, they can take on Wacha and Martinez next year.

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