Looking to become Major League Baseball’s champions for the second time in four seasons, the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals won the National League Central Division, then dispatched the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series.
It was the Cardinals’ fourth consecutive League Championship Series and the third against an NL West club, this time the San Francisco Giants. In their LDS match up, manager Bruce Bochy’s club had eliminated the NL East-winning Washington Nationals in four games.
After splitting the first two games at home, St. Louis dropped three straight road contests to the eventual champions from the Bay Area.
Here is how it unfolded.
Both team’s aces were ready to go in Game 1 at Busch Stadium, with Adam Wainwright opposing lefty Madison Bumgarner. The visitors plated three in the second and third innings and that was all they needed to take a 3-0 victory and deflate the Cards home-field advantage.
Shaky defense hurt St. Louis as Matt Carpenter committed a bases-loaded fielding error after Randal Grichuk gloved, but dropped a ball at the wall in the second. Kolten Wong then muffed a double-play ball in the third before the Giants’ final run scored on a sacrifice fly.
Eventual NLCS MVP Bumgarner stymied the St. Louis offense, allowing just four hits in 7 2/3 innings.
Game 2 offered what would be the last sustained excitement for St. Louis in the series. The 5-4 game ended in walk-off fashion on Wong’s home run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
With solo home runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, St. Louis became the first team in Major League Baseball history to accomplish that feat. Oscar Taveras launched a pinch-hit shot in the seventh to tie the contest before Matt Adams went deep in the eighth to give St. Louis a brief lead.
Again, closer Trevor Rosenthal made things interesting. The Giants, who entered the ninth inning trailing 4-3, re-tied the game on a ball-four, wild pitch from the Cardinals closer before Wong’s heroics ended it.
Yadier Molina left the game with an oblique injury that ended his 2014.
The clubs moved to the West Coast for Games 3 through 5 as the Giants made sure they would have no reason to return to St. Louis.
In Game 3, it was San Francisco’s turn to celebrate a walk-off win on Randy Choate’s wild throw to first base in the 10th inning. The final play was a bunt with the winning run coming all the way around from second base to cap off the wild 5-4 contest.
Starter John Lackey put the Cards in an early hole, surrendering four runs in the first inning, but the starter hung in there. The right-hander retired 16 of the last 18 batters faced as he finished six innings having allowed just five hits and a walk.
Offensively, the Cards chipped away, finally tying the game in the seventh on a Grichuk solo homer. Wong doubled and tripled, plating two, while Jon Jay went 3-for-5 with two runs scored.
The Cardinals staked themselves to a three-run lead in Game 4 but were done scoring by the third. They went into the sixth clinging to a one-run edge before falling apart. Consecutive wild throws by Adams at first base helped the Giants forge a three-run inning on their way to a 6-4 victory.
Wong was St. Louis’ brightest spot. The second baseman finished with a double and solo home run, upping his October extra-base hit total to seven. In the field, he made several outstanding plays as well.
Protecting a 3-2 lead in the eighth, Pat Neshek served up a game-tying homer to Michael Morse. Unwilling to use Rosenthal in the ninth in the tie game, manager Mike Matheny surprisingly called in Michael Wacha from the pen to make his post-season debut. The right-hander secured just one out before Travis Ishikawa’s three-run blast put an exclamation point on San Francisco’s 6-3 win.
St. Louis’ offense again did all of its scoring early with a run in the third and two in the fourth. Jay singled, doubled and plated one before solo homers by Adams and Tony Cruz put the Cards on top.
Despite a sore elbow, Wainwright performed well. The ace allowed two runs on four hits, striking out seven over seven innings, but it was not enough.
During the CS, Jay and Wong led the offense. The centerfielder was on-base 11 times in the five games, with eight singles, a double and two walks, but scored just two runs. His .500 average and .571 OBP led the team.
All five of Wong’s hits went for extra bases, but it was not a good sign for the team that the second baseman led the roster with four RBI. Mired in the manager’s doghouse, Taveras singled and homered in his three plate appearances.
Topping the starters, Wainwright and Lance Lynn each had ERAs just over three. Right-handers Seth Maness and Carlos Martinez were the only relievers to be unscored upon, combining for 7 1/3 run-free frames.
As it had been all season long, lack of offense was the clear issue. The team followed up their .238 average against the Dodgers with a .233 performance against the Giants.
Division Series hero Carpenter batted .200, only slightly better than Adams at .222 and Matt Holliday’s .227 mark with no RBI. Grichuk posted a .158 mark with Jhonny Peralta at .118. Given that, it was surprising the team even managed to score 15 runs over the five games.
On the pitching side, there were also a number of rough performances. At first blush, Neshek’s 2.25 ERA appears solid until remembering the game-tying homer in Game 5. Six Cardinals pitchers had ERAs of six or more during the CS, including starters Lackey and Shelby Miller.
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