ST. LOUIS -- The party is over. The Cardinals' bats, along with Busch Stadium, went quiet again on Wednesday night. A season-long celebration of baseball by the Mississippi River ended in disappointment.
St. Louis fell to Boston, 3-0, in Game 4 of the World Series, as the Red Sox completed the sweep for their first world title since 1918. The Cards' championship drought will reach a 23rd year despite a brilliant regular season.
The Redbirds far exceeded preseason expectations, winning 105 games for the best regular season in St. Louis since World War II and taking their first National League pennant since 1987. But they were overmatched against the American League champion Red Sox. St. Louis never led in any game in the series.
"Us getting to the World Series is a great accomplishment," said catcher Mike Matheny. "What we did throughout the season is a great accomplishment. But you need that championship by your name to set you as an extremely special club. In our minds, we are. But it's a shame we didn't show the world when we had the opportunity."
The Cardinals simply didn't play their best baseball, or anything close to it, upon reaching the Fall Classic. Their offense was silent, and until Wednesday their starting pitchers were shaky. Game 4 was absent the baserunning mistakes that plagued the Redbirds in Games 2 and 3, but the theme was the same: a substandard showing by what had been a special team.
Jason Marquis survived an erratic first three innings to turn in the best Cardinals start of the series, allowing three runs over six frames. He walked five, continuing a pattern that plagued Cardinals pitching throughout the four games, but for the most part held his own against baseball's best offense.
"We're disappointed we lost, but we're also very proud of what we did all year," said Marquis. "Obviously they played better baseball than us and they beat us. I think they knew what we were capable of doing. Obviously we didn't show that in all aspects: pitching, hitting and defense. That's the way the breaks go."
Derek Lowe did much more than hold his own in facing the NL's most prolific lineup, just like Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez before him. Lowe had no trouble against a St. Louis team that totaled only three runs in the series' last three games. Schilling, Martinez and Lowe, the Boston starters for Games 2-4, combined to pitch 20 innings, allowing one unearned run on 10 hits.
The early Boston lead, combined with the home team's offensive struggles, took the sellout crowd of 52,037 mostly out of the game.
"I'm disappointed that we didn't play well in the World Series just for the sake of the people, and to hear that crowd go crazy again," said Jim Edmonds, who was held to a single hit for the series. "That's tough. We didn't even give them a chance to cheer."
Jason Marquis / P
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R
The Cards rarely had so much as a threat against the sinkerballing Lowe, but when they did, they couldn't convert. Tony Womack's leadoff single and Larry Walker's surprising sac bunt in the first put the speedster in scoring position with one out, but a pair of infield grounders from Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen poured water on the fire.
Rolen, who played a central role in St. Louis' triumph over Houston in the National League Championship Series, was held hitless in the World Series. The Cards' usual 4-5-6 hitters, Rolen, Edmonds and Reggie Sanders, put up a combined 1-for-39 line.
"When you have the aspiration as a little kid of playing in the World Series, throwing the ball up and hitting it, you at least sneak one hit in there in your backyard," said Rolen. "It's tough. It's certainly not what you dream of. It's certainly not meeting expectations.
"I performed offensively at a much lower standard. Call it a zero standard. It's something that I don't take lightly, and I don't know what to do about it. I tried as hard as I could."
Edgar Renteria brought the fans to life with a one-out double in the fifth, but again Lowe was unfazed. He struck out John Mabry on a disputed call, and Yadier Molina grounded out to end the inning.
"They pitched our hitters well," Renteria said. "I don't know. I don't know what to say. They played a better ballgame and they deserve to be the world champs."
And so it went for the rest of the night, with Lowe in complete command against an offense that was rarely dominated in such fashion this year. Cardinals batters went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday, making it a composite 1-for-18 since the start of Game 2.
Hitting got the Cardinals to the World Series, but it didn't get them a title.
"If you've been following our team all year long, five or six or seven runs is not enough," Albert Pujols said. "You have to make 27 outs. We can put runs up in a hurry. It didn't happen in this series, but we need to get over it."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.