10/14/2013 7:55 P.M. ET
Cardinals not letting complacency creep in
By Jenifer Langosch and Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The Cardinals arrived in Los Angeles with ideal positioning. Not only did they enter Monday's Game 3 with a handle on a 2-0 lead in the National League Championship Series, but they had taken two games started by Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.
There is, however, no palpable sense of complacency. Those who were with the Cards in 2012 remember well the sting of losing a 3-1 NLCS lead against the eventual World Series champion Giants.
"We have a sense of urgency, I believe, all the time," manager Mike Matheny said. "There's really nothing different to do. Now, if guys started backing off, it would be very contrary to anything we've seen all season long, and we would make a point to try and right the ship. ... But what we learned last year is just how fragile this is and how quickly it can get away from you."
The Cardinals had one chance to close out last year's NLCS at home, which they could not do behind starter Lance Lynn. The series then shifted back to San Francisco, where the Cards could not get deep starts by either Chris Carpenter or Kyle Lohse. The club ended up being outscored, 20-1, over the final three games of the series.
Only once before has a team jumped out to a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven NLCS and not advanced to the World Series. Interestingly, that was back in 1985, when the Cardinals came back on the Dodgers in the only previous NLCS meeting between these two clubs.
"We're approaching this like what it is right now," Carlos Beltran said. "We have a two-game lead, but that doesn't mean anything. We have to get it done. We have to find a way to finish this and move up to the World Series."
Cardinals content with low-scoring NLCS
LOS ANGELES -- Games 1 and 2 of the National League Championship Series were historically bereft of offense, and the question before Game 3 was: Can this possibly continue?
Lance Lynn, who will pitch Game 4, sure hoped so.
"You have two really good offensive teams that haven't done much so far, and I've never been one to be naive to the fact that somebody's probably due," Lynn said Monday afternoon, before Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright took the mound in Game 3. "We have two great offenses here that haven't done anything yet, so there could be a couple good games here offensively.
"But as a starting pitcher, you don't want to see it."
Lynn was a relief pitcher -- and the winning pitcher -- in Game 1, which the Cardinals won, 3-2, in 13 innings. The Cards won Game 2, 1-0, with two hits and a sacrifice fly, making this an NLCS so far owned by the arms.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Cardinals' .134 batting average (9-for-67) through the first two games was the lowest for a club with a 2-0 lead in a postseason series. Only 12 teams have won a series with an average below .200, most recently the Giants (.194) over the Reds in last year's NL Division Series. The lowest average for an LCS winner is owned by the A's, who hit .183 while beating Baltimore in the 1974 American League Championship Series.
Neither the Cards or Dodgers homered in the first two games, the first time that has happened in an NLCS. It's particularly strange considering Los Angeles hit seven home runs in the NLDS and St. Louis hit six, the top totals among NL postseason participants.
The Cardinals led the NL with 783 runs scored, and the Dodgers were seventh with 649. The Cards were second in the league with a .733 OPS, and L.A. was fourth at .722.
"We're hoping from our side to continue to see [the offenses stay quiet]," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "With our ace going today, we like kind of the tempo that's been set, and hopefully he keeps it up. But it's been very well pitched on both sides."
Dodgers know Kelly didn't hit Hanley on purpose
LOS ANGELES -- Shortstop Hanley Ramirez returned to the Dodgers' lineup for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Monday night despite being diagnosed with a hairline fracture of his eighth rib. While the Dodgers are frustrated by the timing of the injury, they maintain their belief that there was no intent by Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly to hit Ramirez in Game 1.
"There hasn't been talk of it being intentional," Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly said on Monday. "I don't think it was. Most of the time, you can tell when somebody's trying to intentionally do something. The Cardinals are a class organization, and you don't really see it. I've never really felt that from them. That's not the way they go about their business. They're trying to get you out. They're trying to beat you. I don't fear any retaliation."
The timing and circumstances of the plunking certainly did not suggest anything intentional. Kelly had Ramirez in a 1-2 count with a runner at first in the opening inning of Game 1 of the NLCS. By hitting Ramirez, Kelly pushed a runner into scoring position for cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez.
Kelly fought his command at other points in the inning, too. He unloaded a wild pitch before stranding two in the 20-pitch scoreless frame. Afterward, Kelly admitted to being too amped up and high on emotion as he made the first NLCS start of his career.
The Dodgers saw much of the same.
"The guy was really geared up," said Dodgers reserve Jerry Hairston, who isn't on Los Angeles' NLCS roster. "It's an emotional game and the first game of the series. The ball just got away from him. We know in here that he was not trying to throw at him. It's just unfortunate that Hanley's hurt. We are hoping that he will be ready to go. We know how important he is to our lineup."
• For the second straight day, Allen Craig participated in the Cardinals' batting practice at Dodger Stadium. Craig, who was wearing a protective pad on his left shoe, continues to eye a return should the Cards advance to the World Series. He has not played since suffering a Lisfranc sprain to his left foot on Sept. 4.
• Bob LaMonte, the agent for Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter, told the Boston Globe this weekend that the 38-year-old right-hander intends to retire after the season. Carpenter has maintained that he will not make any official announcement regarding his plans until the season is over. Carpenter is set to be a free agent this winter.
• For the second straight game, the Cards batted Yadier Molina in the cleanup spot and hit Matt Adams in the six-hole against Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 3 on Monday night. The Cardinals have been consistent in using this lineup against left-handed starters in the postseason.
• Speaking to the media during a pregame news conference, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly left open the possibility of changing his Game 4 (Tuesday night at 7 p.m. CT on TBS) pitching plans. Ricky Nolasco is listed as Los Angeles' Game 4 starter, but the club could instead turn to Zack Greinke on three days' rest. St. Louis will start Lance Lynn regardless of the outcome on Monday.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.