I’m going to admitsomething here that I didn’t even tell my wife.
I knew all day yesterday that the St. Louis Cardinals were going to lose Game 5 to the Boston Red Sox. Even with ace Adam Wainwright pitching. Even in St. Louis, where the Cardinals have been so difficult
to beat this season. Even in a game of such high stakes with the Series tied, 2-2.
I just knew. I had very little emotion during the game, even, although it was tight. There were dramatic moments, but the drama escaped me. Because I knew.
I’m not sure how I knew. Or why I knew. I usually don’t know these things. I go into almost every Cardinals game I watch with an open mind and hoping for the best. There are times when I feel like the Cardinals are going to win.
But I don’t recall ever having such a strong premonition that the Cardinals were going to lose as I had before Game 5 on Monday night.
The Cardinals aren’t hitting. And they don’t look like they’re going to hit. I’ll give some credit to the Boston pitching staff and especially to Jon Lester, who is a stud. But St. Louis batted .330 with running in scoring position during the regular season. They’re batting below .200 in such scenarios in the World Series.
St. Louis has played in 19 World Series, won 11, and in only four of them have the Cardinals hit worse than the .218 they’re batting against the Red Sox.
There has been a huge drop-off in batting average and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). During the regular season, St. Louis batted .269 with a .733 OPS. Against Boston, the Cardinals are batting .218 with a .577 OPS.
It got me to wondering about the World Series vs. regular season splits for the 18 other Cardinals teams that played in the October Classic.
The most drastic fall-off from regular season to World Series happened in 1930, when the Cardinals lost in six games to the Philadelphia Athletics.
The A’s used right-hander George Earnshaw and lefty Lefty Grove to stymie a Cardinals team that had batted .314 during the regular season with an .843 OPS. It’s one of the best offensive teams in history, but against the A’s the Cardinals scored 12 runs in six games and batted .200 with a .536 OPS.
Earnshaw and Grove pitched pitched 44 of the 52 innings in the World Series for the A’s.
The Cardinals had huge issues generating offense during a four-game sweep by the Red Sox in the 2004 World Series, too.
That St. Louis team included Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen in the middle of the order. MV3 was their nickname because each had a monstrous regular season.
The Cardinals batted .278 as a team in 20034 with an impressive .804 OPS. But against a hot Boston team, St. Louis batted only .190 in the World Series with an OPS of .562.
The Cardinals, in fact, are batting just .224 in their last four World Series appearances. Which makes the fact they’ve won two and are still alive in a third remarkable.
St. Louis has batted .250 or higher in only seven of 19 World Series. The Cardinals have batted .220 or below in five and .240 or below in 11.
Of course, hitting is tougher in a World Series. You’re facing top-notch pitching and the weather is normally much cooler than during the regular season. Pitchers have a distinct advantage.
But for the Cardinals to have gone this cold after a productive regular season offensively is a surprise. They’re not only not hitting, but they’re taking bad at-bats. St. Louis hitters are either too patient or not patient enough. They too often swing at pitches out of the strike zone or take pitches down the middle of the plate.
Maybe something will change in Game 6, when the Cardinals oppose Boston right-hander John Lackey. He’s hardly unhittable. Sure, Lackey has had a nice second half of the season, but he’s not the kind of pitcher who should dominate a lineup like the Cardinals will throw out there.
Then again, who knows? It’s difficult to see how St. Louis suddenly goes on a hitting barrage after five games – and really an entire postseason – of offensive futility.
I don’t have any strong feelings about Game 6 yet. Perhaps when I wake up Wednesday morning, something will hit me. I’m pretty sure it won’t be a Cardinal batter, though. Those guys aren’t hitting anything.