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Cardinals grounded on all fronts

Big League Stew

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SAN FRANCISCO — They stopped hitting, they couldn't field and their pitching wasn't very good. Other than that, Mr. and Mrs. St. Louis, how did you like how the NLCS turned out? After showing promise and fight in the division series round and through four games against the San Francisco Giants, the Cardinals finally succumbed Monday night, falling 9-0 in Game 7. There will be no repeat champion in Major League Baseball.

Cards manager Mike Matheny, while acknowledging his own team's shortcomings, credited the Giants with taking the NL pennant.

"They were swinging the bat well and capitalizing on the mistakes that we made," Matheny said. "You have to acknowledge that fact that once a team gets rolling it's sometimes hard to stop them."

True enough, but:

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• The Cardinals scored one run in the final 28 innings of the series. They couldn't do anything with Ryan Vogelsong or Barry Zito, who wasn't even certain to have a starting job during the series.

• Cards starting pitchers accumulated only 30 innings over seven games. Chris Carpenter, coming back from complicated surgery to give relief to nerves in his shoulder, totaled eight innings in two starts.

• St. Louis defense made six errors and had at least that many more mental lapses in the field. Rookie shortstop Pete Kozma, glue down the stretch and in the first round of the playoffs, had just as much trouble with several basic plays as he did complex ones.

And all of it led to a collapse reminiscent of the ones in 1996 NLCS against the Atlanta Braves, and in the 1985 World Series against the Kansas City Royals. Both times, the Cardinals lost three straight games with chances to close out the series. Hey, if it happens every 10 or 15 years that way, it's not so bad, right? Not if you have to live through it.

The Giants struck for single runs in the first and second against Kyle Lohse, then blew it open with five runs in the third — the key play being Hunter Pence's unique three-run broken-bat double. Lohse took the blame.

"The game ran away from us. I didn't stop it," said starting pitcher Kyle Lohse, who managed only six outs in probably his final start with the organization. "The series went with it."

An oversimplification. Infielder Daniel Descalso added: "It's tough to win a series when we only score once in three ballgames."

Now the picture really starts to form. And it's a homely one for Team Fredbird.

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