10/16/2013 1:23 A.M. ET
Cards opt for offense, start Descalso over Kozma
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Seeking any way to spark a recently sluggish offense, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny unplugged defensive-minded shortstop Pete Kozma and replaced him with Daniel Descalso in Tuesday night's Game 4 National League Championship Series lineup.
"We need offense. That is all there is to it," Matheny said. "I love Pete, and boy, has he been just as good defensively as any other time all season. It's been a big help for us. But we need a spark. You look back even last year at what Descalso was able to do in the postseason, and you know that he can be a guy who can sometimes get things going for us. We thought we would take a shot with him."
Descalso, who slides into the eight-hole in the batting order, is 4-for-14 in his career against Game 4 starter Ricky Nolasco. The infielder has just two hits in 11 at-bats this postseason, though hardly any of his teammates have fared much better. Of the 13 position players on the Cardinals' 25-man roster, only one (Yadier Molina ) has posted a batting average north of .250.
During the regular season, five Cards hitters -- Molina (.319), Matt Carpenter (.318), Allen Craig (.315), Matt Holliday (.300) and Carlos Beltran (.296) -- finished with batting averages in the top 15 among all NL hitters.
Through three NLCS games, the Cardinals have a .134 batting average, the lowest by a club after three LCS games. The lowest team average by an LCS winner was the .183 mark posted by Oakland in its 1974 American League Championship Series win over Baltimore.
"Everybody is kind of in a spot right now," Matheny said. "It's the [Dodgers'] pitching partly. You never want to give too much of that, because our guys have done it against some of the best pitchers. Right now, the whole group ... is a click off right now. I've seen it click overnight and [then] we go. I've seen some real nice swings on some mistakes, but there haven't been that many mistakes. Just almost. That 'almost' is a minor adjustment, and hopefully those guys can make it."
Aside from inserting Descalso back into the starting lineup for the first time since Game 2 of the NL Division Series, Matheny stuck with the same batting order he has used against right-handed starters all postseason. Kozma is 1-for-19 this postseason.
Freese exits early in Game 4, but says calf is fine
LOS ANGELES -- A day after exiting the Cardinals' Game 3 loss with tightness in his right calf, third baseman David Freese passed all the mobility tests necessary to get clearance to return to the lineup. He played just 5 1/2 innings of Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Dodgers in Game 4, but he said afterward that his leg gave him no repeat issues in the game.
"I feel good," Freese said after going 0-for-3 with a strikeout. "Obviously, I didn't feel 100 percent today. But I felt like I competed in the box as I normally do. I felt all right. I'll feel better tomorrow."
Before his name was written into the lineup, Freese tested his leg while running in the outfield more than four hours before first pitch. The medical staff also helped Freese get hydrated to help combat what manager Mike Matheny said was a cramping issue. Freese later took infield practice with his teammates during batting practice.
Freese admitted pregame to still being "a little sore," but he remained determined to play. He said that taking BP helped loosen his calf up, and that it continued to improve during the game.
Freese came out of Tuesday's game before the bottom of the sixth, but only for defensive purposes. Matheny took the opportunity to insert Pete Kozma at short -- which subsequently shifted Daniel Descalso to third -- as the Cards were trying to hang onto what was, at the time, a one-run lead.
The 24-hour improvement for Freese was a relief for Matheny, who feared that he could be without his third baseman for more than a day when he pulled Freese out of Monday's game after watching him run gingerly to second.
"I was concerned or I certainly wouldn't have thrown him out of the game," Matheny said. "When I watched him go first to second, I was afraid that he pulled something and that it might be a little while."
Streak ends, but Cards' bullpen still a strength
LOS ANGELES -- Though a non-factor in the outcome of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, the Cardinals' bullpen had its string of 11 2/3 scoreless innings snapped with the Dodgers' eighth-inning run on Monday. St. Louis' bullpen had not allowed a run since Game 3 of the NL Division Series.
Monday's run was charged to lefty Kevin Siegrist, marking the first earned run he has allowed since July 30. Siegrist had ended the regular season with the Majors' longest active scoreless streak at 25 innings.
Siegrist allowed the first of three straight singles; the other two came off Seth Maness, including a bloop over the head of second baseman Kolten Wong to score Carl Crawford from second.
Though the Cards have five rookies in their bullpen, relief pitching has been a strength for the club this postseason. Through eight playoff games, the 'pen has limited opponents to a .188 batting average and five runs (four earned) in 21 1/3 innings. The relievers have struck out 17 and walked eight.
• Craig (left foot sprain) continues to participate in on-field baseball activities with the goal of being ready to join the roster if the Cardinals advance to the World Series. Before joining his team for batting practice on Tuesday, Craig spent some time throwing in the outfield.
• After Jon Jay's adventurous night in center field on Monday, Matheny defended his outfielder by describing Jay's miscue-laced night as "uncharacteristic."
"He's done a nice job for us," Matheny said. "The reason it looked so odd yesterday is because he's been so good and so consistent for us. He's had a strong season. I think he's done a real nice job defensively. Last night was a rough game for him."
• The matchup for a Nov. 18 soccer friendly at Busch Stadium was set on Tuesday, when Bosnia-Herzegovina defeated Lithuania to qualify for the World Cup. Bosnia-Herzegovina will now face Argentina in what will be the second soccer match at Busch Stadium. Tickets to the match start at $40 and are on sale at cardinals.com/soccer.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.