Cardinals Post-Season Review and 2014 Outlook

Molina, Wacha celebrate NL pennant win

Winner of the National League Central Division, the St. Louis Cardinals advanced to the sixth game of the World Series before bowing out. Third of three articles summarizing the 2013 season.

In summary

Looking to become Major League Baseball's champions for the second time in three seasons, the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals clinched the Central Division after Game 161 of the regular season, winning a total of 97 and losing 65. It was the best record in the league, assuring home field advantage until the World Series.

In the Division Series, the Cardinals faced a division foe, the Pittsburgh Pirates, winner of the Wild Card Game over Cincinnati. The Bucs, having not participated in the post-season since 1992, were a national sentimental favorite and had a slight regular-season edge over St. Louis, 10 games to nine.

St. Louis and Pittsburgh took turns dominating the other in Games 1 and 2 in St. Louis, turning the home advantage the Bucs' way, but Adam Wainwright's complete-game win in Game 5 led the Cardinals to a 3-2 edge.

Behind strong pitching, especially from rookie and Championship Series MVP Michael Wacha, the Cardinals dispatched the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games to take their fourth National League pennant in the last 10 years.

The other MLB team that won 97 regular season games, the Boston Red Sox, awaited St. Louis in a rematch of the 2004 World Series. After a split in Boston gave the Cards the edge, they could not hold serve, dropping two of three at home and the concluding Game 6 in Boston.

NLDS

In 2013, MLB returned to the traditional 2-2-1 format for the best-of-five Division Series. Busch Stadium was the site of the opening two tilts between the Cardinals and the Bucs.

The Cardinals went with a traditional roster of 13 position players and 12 pitchers in the series. Injured Allen Craig was excluded, with rookie Kolten Wong making the squad. Among the excluded pitchers were Jake Westbrook, Fernando Salas, Tyler Lyons and Sam Freeman.

Game 1

Behind 19-game winner Adam Wainwright, who opened the DS for the second consecutive year, the Cardinals dominated Game 1, 9-1. The ace yielded a lone run on three hits in seven innings, striking out nine without a walk.

The Cardinals set an NLDS single-inning record with seven runs scored against A.J. Burnett in the third frame. The outburst was punctuated by Carlos Beltran's 15th career postseason home run, a 443-foot blast deep into the second deck in right.

Game 2

Less than 24 hours later, the Pirates turned the table, with a 7-1 victory. The Cards lacked good pitching, timely hitting and solid defense. In a controversial decision, Matheny had named Lance Lynn the Game 2 starter while moving MLB's leading winner among rookies, Shelby Miller, to the pen for the series.

Lynn yielded five runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings, putting the Cardinals in a hole from which they could not recover. The big blast was a two-run home run by Pedro Alvarez in the third.

Pittsburgh rookie Gerrit Cole, firing 99 mph heat, gave up just two hits, including a Yadier Molina solo home run, in six dominant innings. Misplays by Jon Jay and David Freese contributed to several Pirates tallies.

Game 3

After a travel day, the series moved to a boisterous Pittsburgh, where the Pirates wanted to leverage their newly-captured home field advantage.

Joe Kelly took the ball in Game 3 against Bucs ace Francisco Liriano. Though many observers felt the Pirates had a distinct advantage, the two battled evenly, leaving the game tied 2-2. The 3-3 deadlock in the eighth was broken by a pair of RBI singles against Kevin Siegrist which put the home team ahead for good. Carlos Beltran drove in all three Cardinals runs, including another long ball.

Game 4

Along with the Game 2 starter decision, Matheny's selection of rookie Michael Wacha to start the elimination Game 4 generated debate. The 22-year-old right-hander quieted critics, the Pirates' bats and their hopes of clinching at home with a masterful performance, carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning.

After yielding a solo home run to – who else but - Pedro Alvarez, Wacha turned the game over to Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal to complete the "23-year-old and under" one-hitter. According to ESPN, it was the first time in playoff history a team used only three pitchers 23 or younger. Speaking of post-season firsts, Rosenthal's first career save and Martinez' first hold preserved Wacha's first victory.

Earlier, Matt Holliday snapped the scoreless tie with a two-run blast in the sixth inning. That gave the struggling Cardinals offense (three hits on the day) just enough to win.

Game 5

The teams returned to St. Louis for the deciding Game 5, with two earlier DS winners facing off – Wainwright (Game 1) vs. Cole (Game 2). Bucs manager Clint Hurdle passed over Burnett for the start after the latter's Game 1 problems at Busch.

While Cole pitched admirably, he allowed one key mistake, which David Freese turned into a two-run home run into the left-field bullpen. That was the edge Wainwright needed. The right-hander scattered eight hits, dominating the Pirates in the complete-game victory. While Wainwright walked the first batter, amazingly he threw just 33 balls to his 33 batters faced.

In the eighth inning, the Cardinals offense turned a tight 3-1 edge into the final 6-1 margin. Matt Adams had the big blow, a two-run blast deep to right as the Cardinals advanced to the Championship Series for the third time in the last three seasons.

Wainwright celebrated
NLDS leaders

Over his 16 innings, Wainwright yielded just two runs for a 1.13 ERA. The 32-year-old scattered 11 hits, walked just one and struck out 15. The Pirates batted a collective .196 against The Cardinal Nation's choice as the NLDS Most Valuable Player.

Carlos Beltran's mammoth three-run blast was important in Game 1 and he went on to hit a second home run. The right-fielder led St. Louis with six RBI in the five games despite batting just .222.

Matt Holliday's two-run home run was the offensive difference in Game 4 as the left-fielder batted .300 over the five games. Game 4 winning pitcher Michael Wacha took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in a masterful performance during which he yielded one hit, two walks and fanned nine.

David Freese raised his LDS average to .188 on the game-changing two-run homer in Game 5. His four RBI in the series was second to Beltran. Later in Game 5, Matt Adams repeated the two-run home run feat for important insurance runs and batted .316 overall.

Pete Kozma came through when called upon with four hits in 10 at-bats and two stellar defensive plays in Game 5. Despite batting just .188, Jon Jay paced the Cards in walks with four and runs scored with five, doing both ahead of Freese's key Game 5 blast.

NLCS

The Cards advanced into the League Championship Series for the third consecutive season and the second against the NL West champion, this time the Los Angeles Dodgers. In their LDS match up against Atlanta, manager Don Mattingly's club had dispatched the NL East-winning club in four games.

It seemed a pitching versus hitting matchup coming in. The Cardinals held the Pirates to a collective .201 batting average in the DS, while the Dodgers' offense exploded against Atlanta. Their .333 team batting average and .572 slugging percentage were the fourth- and fifth best in a series in MLB playoff history.

Despite hope that Allen Craig's foot would be healed enough for him to play, the Cardinals maintained their same roster from the LDS in the LCS.

LCS Games 1 and 2 were at home at Busch Stadium.

Game 1

Carlos Beltran was Mr. Everything as he drove in all three St. Louis runs and threw out the Dodgers' potential lead run at the plate in the 10th inning. His game-winning RBI single into the right-field corner in the bottom of the 13th brought home Daniel Descalso to end the 4:47 marathon opener. Earlier, Beltran's two-run double in the third knotted the game at two and would be the last run to cross the plate for the next 10 frames.

Joe Kelly started and delivered his usual workman-like performance. The right-hander allowed two first-inning runs before tossing five scoreless frames. Former Cy Young Award winner, Dodgers starter Zack Greinke, was even better, fanning 10 Cardinals in eight innings and allowing just four hits.

Though the Cardinals pen added seven scoreless innings of its own, it was rocky at times, as the Dodgers had two runners on base in the ninth, 10th and 11th. Yet the visitors came up empty each time. The Dodgers stranded 11 overall while going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Lance Lynn picked up with win after pitching the final two frames.

Game 2

In the late afternoon shadows, rookie Michael Wacha and another LA former Cy Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw, staged another pitching battle that was even better than Game 1.

St. Louis scored the game's only run in the fifth inning. It was unearned as David Freese doubled, moved up on a passed ball and scored on Jon Jay's sacrifice fly. In the top of the sixth, a single followed by Matt Carpenter's throwing error put two in scoring position. An intentional walk loaded the bases before Wacha fanned Juan Uribe and Yasiel Puig to escape.

After Wacha's 6 2/3 scoreless, four relievers closed out the five-hit shutout, including five consecutive strikeouts by Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal to end the game. In an oddity, the Cards had just two hits, both for extra bases. It was only the third 1-0 post-season game in team history.

The clubs moved to the West Coast for Games 3 through 5.

Game 3

The Cardinals struggled mightily in Game 3, falling 3-0. Adam Wainwright took the loss despite allowing just two runs over seven innings, with five strikeouts and no walks. Dodgers rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu tossed seven shutout frames as the Cardinals' offensive woes continued. Through three games, St. Louis' hitters were batting a collective .134, the lowest of any club through three games in LCS history.

Several defensive miscues that did not appear as errors doomed the Cardinals, as Jon Jay made two costly tentative misplays in the outfield. In addition, at a crucial point in the game, pinch runner Daniel Descalso was doubled up off second base on a routine fly ball.

Game 4

The Cardinals brought out their long ball prowess to take a decisive 3-1 series lead. St. Louis was paced by a mammoth two-run home run by Matt Holliday to deep left field and also received a solo shot from pinch-hitter Shane Robinson to win 4-2.

Starter Lance Lynn delivered a workman-like 5 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs while picking up his second victory of the series, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal shut out the Dodgers the rest of the way on two hits.

Game 5

With a chance to end the series in Los Angeles, the Cardinals couldn't do it. The tone was set for the offense when they loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning against Zack Greinke but came up empty. Still, the Cardinals briefly tied the game in the third on Carlos Beltran's RBI triple and Holliday's run-scoring double before Yadier Molina grounded into his second inning-ending double play.

Kelly started and went five innings. He allowed four runs, including three of the Dodgers' four home runs. Relievers Edward Mujica and John Axford allowed single runs in the seventh and eighth that blunted the Cardinals' two-run comeback attempt in the ninth. The final score was 6-4, Dodgers.

The clubs returned to St. Louis to complete the series with the Cardinals up three games to two.

Game 6

In the Game 2 rematch, Wacha opposed Kershaw. In an amazing exhibition, the Cardinals batted around against the Dodgers left-hander in the third and knocked him out three batters into the fifth. Kershaw took his second loss of the LCS after allowing seven runs on 10 hits and two walks.

Matt Carpenter sparked St. Louis' big third inning with a one-out double on the 11th pitch of his at-bat. Beltran singled him home for the first of his three hits and two RBI and later made a spectacular catch in right-center field. Shane Robinson drove in two with a single in his first career postseason start after replacing slumping Jon Jay in center.

Wacha was again masterful, throwing seven innings of scoreless ball on just two hits and a walk, while striking out five. Martinez and Rosenthal slammed the door on the 9-0 whitewashing.

With the 4-2 series victory, St. Louis advanced to its second World Series in three seasons and fourth in the last 10 years.

MVP Wacha

NLCS leaders

Wacha was named the Most Valuable Player of the LCS after outduelling Kershaw twice. The 22-year-old threw 13 2/3 shutout innings and became the first rookie to record two scoreless starts in a single postseason series in major-league history.

By rapping out 13 hits in Game 6, the Cardinals offense raised its series batting average over the Mendoza line to .211. In an oddity, Los Angeles was also 42-for-199, .211, over the six games. Both clubs struck out exactly 50 times.

Among the Cardinals regulars, Beltran led the way with a .286 average and six RBI. Matt Carpenter tied Beltran with three extra-base hits, scored a team-best four runs and had St. Louis' lone stolen base. Off the bench, Robinson went 3-for-7, with a home run and three RBI.

Kozma played stellar defense, but had just a single in 15 at-bats (.067). Freese batted .190 in the series with no RBI. Holliday followed at .200, but had the huge Game 4 home run. Jay batted .222 and looked tentative at times in the field. Big Matt Adams went 5-for-22 (.227) with nine strikeouts.

Closer Trevor Rosenthal and set-up man Carlos Martinez were dominating, combining for 9 2/3 scoreless frames. Pushing 100 mph at times, they allowed just three hits and two walks and struck out 11 Dodgers combined. Rosenthal added two saves. Lance Lynn (two wins) and Adam Wainwright yielded just two runs each in 7 2/3 and seven innings, respectively.

Overall, the staff ERA was a stingy 2.09, though Kelly was charged with six runs in 11 innings (4.91).

World Series

The Cards advanced into the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, who defeated the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. Though it was a rematch of the 2004 Fall Classic, Yadier Molina is the only Cardinal to be active both years. Manager Mike Matheny played ahead of Molina as the starting catcher in 2004.

The Cardinals yielded the home field advantage which had served them so well in the first two rounds. Since the American League won the All-Star Game, Games 1 and 2 were held at Fenway Park, with the action moving to Busch for the weekend.

St. Louis had a good piece of news in that first baseman Allen Craig was pronounced fit and was added to the World Series roster. Normally a first baseman, Craig was initially the designated hitter. The cleanup hitter had not played since September 4 due to a Lisfranc foot injury. Adron Chambers was deactivated to make roster room.

Game 1

The Cardinals failures against the Sox in 2004 seemed to return nine years later as St. Louis played sloppily and was dominated, 8-1. In the first inning, a reversed blown call at second base on the first of two Pete Kozma errors helped set up a subsequent three-run double against Adam Wainwright.

Carlos Beltran made a grand slam-saving catch against David Ortiz in the second, but injured his ribs and headed to the hospital shortly after. The Sox were up 5-0 through two and cruised to the win.

Controversy arose the next morning as photos and video indicated Sox starter Jon Lester, who threw 7 2/3 scoreless on five hits, appeared to be using a green-colored substance in his glove. That didn't cause the Cardinals shaky defense and pitching, however.

Game 2

St. Louis looked to LCS MVP Michael Wacha to even the series on enemy ground. For 5 1/3 innings, the rookie kept the Sox off the board. However, for the second consecutive game, David Ortiz blasted a two-run home run. This one went over the Green Monster as Boston took a 2-1 lead.

St. Louis came right back in the seventh with three runs on aggressive baserunning, two Boston throwing errors and timely hitting. All runs were charged to Red Sox starter John Lackey.

Carlos Martinez was exceptional in the seventh and eighth and Trevor Rosenthal fanned the side in a perfect ninth on 11 pitches to seal the 4-2 St. Louis victory. Wacha became the first winning pitcher in a World Series game to have been born in the 1990's. The other two Cardinals hurlers were, as well.

Craig and Middlebrooks
Game 3

A closely-contested game - in which the Cardinals missed out on several golden scoring opportunities while stranding 11 and the Red Sox came back to tie the home team twice - ended in a play that could have been the signature of this Series.

Late-game Sox replacement third baseman Will Middlebrooks made an unsuccessful dive attempt at catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia's wild throw. Base runner Allen Craig, who had doubled as a pinch-hitter, slid into third. As Craig noticed the ball had gotten away, he tripped over the prone third baseman, who appeared to stick his legs up as Craig was trying to get over him. Third base umpire Jim Joyce signaled obstruction, giving Craig home plate and the Cardinals the walk-off 5-4 win. The rule book clearly supported the umpire's decision.

Despite taking a blown save in the eighth, Trevor Rosenthal picked up the win. Starter Joe Kelly allowed two runs on two hits in 5 1/3 innings. Matt Holliday was the hitting star, with a single, double, run scored and three RBI.

Game 4

For the second consecutive night, the game ended on a play that had never been seen before in that situation. This time, the Cardinals were on the wrong end. Pinch-runner Kolten Wong was picked off first base with two outs in the ninth with his team down by two and the dangerous Carlos Beltran at the plate.

In reality, the game was lost due to continued problems by the offense (eight runners stranded) and a three-run home run by Jonny Gomes off reliever Seth Maness in the sixth inning. Two of those runs were charged to losing pitcher Lance Lynn in the 4-2 Boston victory.

Game 5

In a rematch of Game 1, but in St. Louis this time, Adam Wainwright faced Jon Lester. In a surprise, hobbled Allen Craig played first base after having set a World Series record with four pinch-hits in four at-bats.

Red Sox' Lester (7 2/3 innings) and hot-hitting David Ortiz (.733 Series batting average) were again the difference-makers as the Cardinals were held to four hits and fell, 3-1. Journeyman David Ross' tiebreaking double off Wainwright in the seventh inning was the key blow. The Cards' starter fanned 10 in seven innings, but took his second loss of the Series.

St. Louis' lone score came on a Matt Holliday fourth-inning home run.

Game 6

It was not a happy flight in either direction for the Cards as they initially endured a seven-hour on-ground delay before their return to Boston. Then, there was that matter of needing to win Game 6 in a hostile environment or see their season end. Michael Wacha was again asked to be St. Louis' stopper.

The magical post-season ride for the rookie ended with a thud. By the time the fourth inning was over, Wacha had been knocked out. The Red Sox held a 6-0 lead on their way to a decisive 6-1 win.

Continuing an ongoing theme, the Cardinals had chances, but could not convert. A two-on, none-out opportunity in the second was foiled when Matt Adams and David Freese flied out and Jon Jay fanned. St. Louis' last threat for a big inning came in the seventh, but Allen Craig grounded out with the bases loaded to end the frame.

World Series leaders

Closer Trevor Rosenthal capped off a perfect post-season, with 4 1/3 scoreless frames over four appearances versus Boston. He fanned nine and walked one (intentional), converting his only save opportunity. Relievers John Axford and Randy Choate were the only other Cardinals pitchers unscored upon, totaling three frames.

Hobbled by a foot injury, Allen Craig still led the Cardinals in World Series hitting with a .375 average. He had no RBI, however. Yadier Molina batted .304. Four of Matt Holliday's six hits went for extra bases, including both St. Louis home runs. The left-fielder drove in a team-best five and his four runs scored also paced the Cardinals.

What went wrong?

Offense was the clear issue. The weak hitting that plagued the Cardinals all post-season long finally caught up with them.

After averaging .209 in the Division Series and .211 in the Championship Series, the Cardinals batted .224 in the World Series. Even more telling, run-scoring dropped dramatically, from 5.3 per DS game to 3.6 per CS game to just 2.3 per World Series contest.

The record-setting regular season runners in scoring position success turned 180 degrees. In the World Series, their RISP average was just .167. While the team scored just 14 times in the six games, they plated only five runs over the three contests in Boston. The final four spots in the Cardinals lineup contributed no RBI in the six games.

Individually, shortstops Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso managed one single in 20 combined at-bats. Third baseman David Freese batted .158, centerfielder Jon Jay came in at .163 and first baseman Matt Adams hit just .136.

Overall, St. Louis' pitching did its job. Boston hit just .211, the lowest average for a Series champion in 39 years. The one man they could not handle consistently, David Ortiz, was named Series MVP. Big Papi batted .688 with two home runs, six RBI and eight walks for a .760 on-base percentage in 25 plate appearances.

The Cardinals organization drew criticism from many by their roster management decisions. Shelby Miller was kept active throughout, but pitched just one inning in the postseason. Despite leading MLB rookies with 15 wins, Miller was apparently benched due to concern about his innings load and a perceived lack of need for a long reliever. Edward Mujica, who had 37 saves before losing his closers job in September, was carried in the bullpen anyway, but threw just two post-season innings. Neither pitched against Boston.

Looking ahead

Heading into the off-season, the team's biggest free agent is right-fielder Carlos Beltran. Others include starter Jake Westbrook and reliever Edward Mujica. Injured players seeking free agency are Chris Carpenter and shortstop Rafael Furcal.

Beltran
Of those, Beltran is most likely to return for 2014, though that is far from a sure thing. The Cardinals have made him a qualifying one-year offer, which would guarantee them an early 2014 draft pick if Beltran signs elsewhere. At age 36, Beltran will have to weigh the comfort of remaining against playing time pressures that other clubs may not have as well as more years and money likely available elsewhere.

Before a late-season collapse, Mujica seemed destined to cash in as a free agent, but might have a slim chance of returning if his asking price is low enough that the Cards could get comfortable with it. The oft-injured Carpenter is rumored to be retiring. Westbrook's option was declined and Furcal is almost surely gone, too.

Four prominent Cardinals with various injuries currently at different stages of recovery may hold a key to 2014. Jaime Garcia (shoulder), Jason Motte (elbow), Allen Craig (foot) and top prospect Oscar Taveras (ankle) all missed considerable time in 2013 but are needed at full strength next season.

The team's greatest unmet needs appear to be up the middle, starting at shortstop, where Pete Kozma's ailing bat led to utilityman Daniel Descalso splitting the job late in the season. The big question remains the potential cost of trying to plug the gap in the open market.

Jay was very inconsistent with the bat and struggled at times defensively in the post-season. Taveras looms on the horizon.

With David Freese coming off another disappointing season and remaining arbitration eligible, the decision with what to do about third base could rise among the priorities. Matt Carpenter came up through the minors playing the position, but it is not clear if rookie Kolten Wong has yet shown enough to be trusted as an every-day second baseman.

Young Cardinals positioned to compete for expanded roles in 2014 include Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Tyler Lyons, Matt Adams and Wong, with a number of other prospects on the horizon.

In conclusion

All-in-all, the 2013 Cardinals overcame the early loss of their veteran starter Carpenter and closer Motte and went on to post the best record in the National League and tied for tops in MLB. Matheny's second club took its playoff push all the way to the sixth game of the World Series before falling.

With better health, improvement at shortstop, centerfield and perhaps third base, better hitting off the bench as well as a steady Wainwright at the top of the rotation mentoring the young and exciting arms, there is no reason to believe the Cardinals cannot again be a serious title contender in 2014.

Previous articles in this series

Click here for Part 1 of this article, which recaps the 2013 Cardinals results from spring training through the regular season finale.

Part 2 drilled down into 2013 Cardinals players individual stats and team marks during the regular season.

This concludes our 37-part article series on the 2013 season and top performers at every level of the St. Louis Cardinals system. Click on the link to review articles about previous award winners across the system club by club as well as 2013 team recaps, much of it exclusively for The Cardinal Nation subscribers.

Premium Article Not yet a subscriber? Join The Cardinal Nation now! A seven-day free trial offer is always available.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2013 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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