Maybe it’s just a matter of their good fortune running out, but there’s another reason why the Cardinals look overmatched in the National League Championship Series.
They miss Albert Pujols.
After taking a 3-1 series lead, St. Louis has been outscored 11-1 in consecutive losses to the Giants. With Matt Cain on the mound tonight, San Francisco is poised for another remarkable playoff rally after winning three straight to take out the Reds in the NLDS.
The Cardinals’ lineup looks impotent with Carlos Beltran playing with sore knees and Matt Holliday missing game six with a bad back. Players like Pete Kozma, Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter are doing their best, but they aren't the type of players to win a pennant.
St. Louis sure could use Pujols, who left after last season for the Angels’ bushel of cash. His absence may be the reason why the Cardinals look like they’ll miss a chance to make another trip to the World Series.
Every step of the way in last year’s postseason, Pujols played a pivotal role in at least one Cardinals’ victory.
In the Divisional Series against the Philadelphia, the Cardinals were about to go down 2-0 in the series when they rallied for a 5-4 victory. Pujols had the game-winning hit and finished two for five, and St. Louis ended up taking the series in five games.
St. Louis advanced to the NLCS against the Brewers. Milwaukee won the opener, but St. Louis stormed back to win game two 12-3 behind Pujols. He was four for five with three doubles, a home run, three runs scored and five RBIs.
The Cardinals won that series in six games.
In the World Series, St. Louis won the opener, but dropped game two. Texas had a chance to finish out the series at home, but Pujols put the Cardinals on his back in game three. St. Louis won 16-7 with Pujols going five for six with three homers, six RBIs and four runs scored.
Pujols didn’t have another hit in the World Series until the bottom of the ninth inning of game six when he doubled with one out, fueling St. Louis' rally from a 7-5 deficit to tie the game. The Cardinals ended up winning in the 11th.
Cardinals third baseman David Freese deservedly won MVP honors in the World Series and the NLCS last year, but Pujols played a big part in three key victories.
Now it looks like the Cardinals are going to fall one win shy of going to the World Series without Pujols.