10/17/2013 4:56 P.M. ET
Cardinals offense finally showing signs of life
By Jenifer Langosch and Chad Thornburg / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Missed opportunities spoiled the Cardinals' attempts to wrap up the National League Championship Series in five games. But the fact that the club had offensive opportunities at all was at least a step in the right direction for a club still hitting below the Mendoza Line this postseason.
For the first time since Game 1 of the NL Division Series -- a game they won, 9-1, over the Pirates -- the Cardinals reached double digits in hits in their Game 5 NLCS loss on Wednesday. Eight of those hits came from the top four spots in the lineup, which had been a combined 8-for-63 in the first four games of the series.
The issue on Wednesday was that the Cardinals could not get the bottom half of their order going until the ninth inning, when it was too little, too late. Matheny likely will shuffle that part of the order for Game 6 on Friday (7:30 p.m. CT on TBS) because the Cardinals will be facing lefty Clayton Kershaw.
"Middle to the bottom, we have to step up and do what we do," David Freese said. "For the guys at the bottom, we have to start innings. I think last time against Kershaw, leading off with the double was big, and just kind of manufacturing runs. That's huge, obviously. When you can get the big guys going, that can put pressure on the starters."
Craig to face live pitching on Friday in St. Louis
ST. LOUIS -- With the Cardinals' decision not to hold a workout at Busch Stadium on Thursday, Allen Craig will wait until Friday to face live pitching for the first time since suffering a left foot injury on Sept. 4.
Manager Mike Matheny said that Craig will take swings off rehabbing lefty Jaime Garcia and other pitchers not on the team's postseason roster on Friday afternoon. Sam Freeman, Tyler Lyons and Jake Westbrook are among the non-roster pitchers who have continued to travel with the club this month and would be available to throw to Craig.
During the Cardinals' recent stay in Los Angeles, Craig participated in coach-pitch batting practice and tested his foot through mobility exercises. With Craig's health having improved, the Cardinals hope their first baseman can quickly regain his timing. The organization anticipates having Craig cleared to join the World Series roster if St. Louis -- up three games to two in the National League Championship Series -- can get past the Dodgers. Game 6 of the NLCS is on Friday (7:30 p.m. CT on TBS).
Thursday marked the first postseason off-day in which the Cardinals did not gather at the field for a brief workout. Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Matheny said he made the decision to have players stay home, believing that it could help them recover after traveling back to St. Louis late on Wednesday.
"[I] just really felt like today would be a good day for guys to shut down and stay away from the yard," Matheny said. "We've spent a lot of time together. We've spent a lot of time at the field, and a day like this hopefully will be something that the guys have a little extra rejuvenation from.
"These guys aren't going to forget how to hit and forget how to throw in one day's time. I think a day to shut down, kind of digest yesterday and the day before and the day before that, and kind of go through their minds that these are adjustments that we need to make in order to make a good two-game push here."
Cards need to end struggles vs. southpaws
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' offense has been sluggish through five games of the National League Championship Series, and if this season is any indication, the going won't get any easier. Game 6 is on Friday (7:30 p.m. CT on TBS).
St. Louis is one win away from the World Series, but standing in its way are two left-handers, one among the best pitchers in baseball. The Cardinals -- who hit .238 against lefties compared with .280 against righties during the regular season -- will have to beat either former NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw or rookie southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu to advance.
The club has gone 20-25 against lefty starters this year, though they have managed three victories against Kershaw, including a 1-0 win in Game 2 of the NLCS. In two regular-season starts against St. Louis this season, Kershaw allowed six earned runs on 13 hits and five walks. Ryu has fared much better; in August, he held the Cards to one unearned run on five hits and no walks with seven strikeouts. In Game 3, he threw seven scoreless innings.
Despite beating Kershaw in Game 2, the Cardinals have hit just .119 (5-for-42) with one run against Ryu and Kershaw in the postseason. St. Louis is batting .178 (29-for-163) in the NLCS, which would be beat the lowest mark by an LCS winner (.183 by Oakland in 1974) if the Cards advance.
• An exchange of words after Game 3 and Adrian Gonzalez's Mickey Mouse ears gesture in Game 5 has brought the differing personalities of the Cardinals and Dodgers into the spotlight. Several media outlets have described this National League Championship Series as a clash between the old-school Cardinals and the boisterous boys from Hollywood. Manager Mike Matheny, asked again about this dynamic on Thursday, had no interest in extending the narrative.
"Other teams are going to do whatever they need to do in order to prepare themselves and have their guys ready. As far as evaluating clubs, once again, it's our job to evaluate ourselves on a daily basis to make sure we're going about it the way we want to go about it. It's not our right and responsibility to dictate how other teams go about theirs. As far as getting under our guys' skin, our guys want to compete. We're not out there to make friends. We're not out there to do anything except win. That is our job. We'll go about it the way we can, and that's going to be our goal and our initiative."
• The Cardinals will hold a pregame pep rally before Game 6 from 5-7 p.m. CT on Friday in the parking lot of Ballpark Village. The activities will include an autograph session with a former Cardinals player.
• Cardinals outfield prospects James Ramsey and Stephen Piscotty -- both members of the organization's 2012 Draft class -- have gotten off to quick starts in the Arizona Fall League. Ramsey is 6-for-13 with two doubles, a homer, four runs scored and four RBIs in four games with the Salt River Rafters. Piscotty, who has played six games, has nine hits (three for extra bases) in 23 at-bats.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.