10/25/11 2:44 AM ET
Cardinals lament missed opportunities
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
But it should've never come down to that for the Cardinals.
In their 4-2 loss to the Rangers in Game 5 of the World Series, the Cards had plenty of chances to tack on runs -- and hardly ever came through.
"You keep putting pressure on them," center fielder Skip Schumaker said, "eventually you feel like you're going to break through. Unfortunately, we didn't."
The Cardinals caught a lot of tough breaks en route to taking a 3-2 deficit in this best-of-seven series Monday. There was miscommunication between manager Tony La Russa and bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist over which relievers would pitch the eighth inning, decisions that got Allen Craig caught stealing with Albert Pujols at the plate in the seventh and ninth, and a David Murphy comebacker that could've led to an eighth-inning-ending double play but bounced off Marc Rzepczynski.
Not so dandy dozen
But their biggest detriment lay in two statistics: 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, 12 runners left on base.
Facing the struggling C.J. Wilson, and on a night when intentional walks were issued at a historic frequency, the Cardinals became just the fourth team in World Series history to reach base 17 times and score two or fewer runs.
And thanks to that, the Rangers became the first team to hand out four intentional walks in the Fall Classic -- three of which went to Pujols -- and still win the game.
"If you're going to beat a good team at their ballpark, you've got to capitalize when you have the opportunity," said Lance Berkman, the Cardinals' designated hitter and No. 5 batter on this night. "The longer you go without it, the more confidence I think they have that somebody's going to have a big hit."
And so it was for the Rangers, who kept it a one-run game, tied it up with an Adrian Beltre homer in the sixth and then took the lead on Mike Napoli's two-run double in the eighth.
The same Cardinals team that went on a 16-run onslaught in Game 3 has now mustered only two runs in its last 18 innings. In this series, St. Louis is batting .186 (8-for-43) with runners in scoring position.
Take away Game 3, and the Cardinals are 4-for-30 in that situation.
"Well, I mean, you know, the same guys that produce offense one day that don't produce the other day, they don't stink," La Russa said. "We have really good hitters, so if somebody gets them out, give credit to the pitchers. I told the guys, 'We tried -- perfect.' There wasn't anything for 8 1/2 innings that was wrong with the way we went about it. We played our butts off. We tried -- perfect. We didn't play perfect at times. So give the other guys credit. I do. That's my suggestion."
But that's hard to do when considering the Cardinals had the leadoff man on five times and only got him in once. Or that they had at least two runners on in the fifth, sixth and seventh and didn't score in any of those frames.
The most critical situation may have been Craig's at-bat with runners on second and third with one out in the fifth. Rafael Furcal had laid down a perfect bunt to move Nick Punto and Schumaker over, setting up a situation where Craig needed to come through because Pujols would be walked with first base open if he didn't.
But Craig struck out on a high slider, Matt Holliday grounded out after Pujols was issued the free pass, and the Cardinals capped a tailor-made run-scoring situation with nothing.
"I think he made a good pitch," Craig said of his at-bat against Wilson. "Obviously, you'd like to come through in that situation. I did my best. I take responsibility for not getting him in, but those are the breaks."
The Cardinals had few breaks on this night.
Craig was caught stealing with none out in the seventh -- evidently on a hit-and-run play called by Pujols, who didn't offer at Alexi Ogando's high fastball -- and was doubled up with none out in the ninth in the exact same scenario, with Pujols striking out.
Then there was the whole miscommunication of the bottom of the eighth, when Rzepczynski pitched to Napoli because Jason Motte wasn't ready and Lance Lynn came in just for an intentional walk because stadium noise didn't allow for the proper message to come through.
But that's not what ticked La Russa off the most.
"I was more frustrated the double play went off the glove [in the eighth] and the fact we had numerous chances to add runs," La Russa said. "That's probably more frustrating. The other part just happens."
And something that will continue to happen is those intentional walks issued to Pujols, who was given a free pass in three straight at-bats and became the third player in World Series history to have that happen to him in one game.
Not one of those chances -- not in the third, not in the fifth and not in the seventh -- led to the Cardinals making Ron Washington pay with a run.
"Obviously it hurts to let the team down, but you know what, I got out there and did the best that I could and battled," said Holliday, the cleanup hitter who came through in just one of those Pujols intentional walks. "I was pleased with my at-bats. The results in two at-bats weren't great, but that's baseball."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.