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FRANCISCO -- The whole point of the Cardinals' deep lineup, stacked with dangerous hitters from top to bottom, is that you can't rely on shutting down just one star. Keep Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday quiet, and you have to face Allen Craig. Get Craig out, and Yadier Molina and David Freese are waiting.
It's the most reliable kind of offense, because on any given day, surely somebody will be getting hits. On Monday in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, though, Ryan Vogelsong quieted just about the entire group.
Beltran had a couple of hits and a walk, and pitcher Chris Carpenter doubled. The guys in between them? The gauntlet that is supposed to make opposing pitchers pay for every single mistake? They were pretty quiet. The Cards' No. 4 through 8 hitters went a combined 1-for-18 with a walk. Leadoff man Jon Jay was also hitless. The Redbirds went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, and they left seven men on base in the 7-1 loss.
On a night when Carpenter wasn't sharp, and the reigning World Series champions had a few foibles in the field, that kind of offensive showing didn't cut it.
"They had a good plan," said Freese, who was 0-for-4 following a torrid start to the postseason. "They stayed out of the middle of the plate. They expanded it when they needed to. [Vogelsong] got stronger toward the end of the game. There's a reason why he fought for the ERA title almost the whole season. He had all his pitches working. We were grinding up there, but nothing to show for it."
Vogelsong utilized the entire strike zone, all the way down to the edges. He hit the black on both sides of the plate and changed elevation on his pitches as well, keeping Cardinals hitters off balance. Vogelsong threw fastballs on 63 percent of his pitches, a good bit higher than his usual average, but he still interspersed plenty of offspeed offerings as well.
"I just kept trying to mix it up, to be honest with you," Vogelsong said. "They're obviously a strong enough offensive team. Their numbers speak for themselves. I just really tried to keep mixing it up."
Molina, beloved in St. Louis for his history of big hits, singled in the ninth but is still 4-for-29 (with five walks) for the postseason. He and Jay are two of the few Cards regulars who haven't put up nice numbers so far this October, though Jay has at least driven in five runs. Holliday is at .250 with a .333 on-base percentage, and Pete Kozma is batting .185, though he has six walks and six RBIs.
"I feel good," Molina said. "I just haven't found holes. I have hit the ball hard a couple of times, but I haven't found holes. That's baseball."
Now the Cardinals return home where, despite playing in a relatively pitcher-friendly park, they've hit better than on the road. They posted a .786 OPS at Busch Stadium this year, compared to .731 on the road. After five straight games on the road, it will be a welcome sight for Cards hitters.
"They really shut us down today," Jay said. "There's nothing more to it than that. In the first inning, we hit a couple balls hard and couldn't get one there. You've just got to tip your hat to them today, but it's kind of harder to do that in the playoffs."