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Cardinals' offense receives boost from up top

Upper third of club's batting order breaks out of its funk in Game 5 loss

LOS ANGELES -- The Cardinals' inability to hit with runners in scoring position may have been the difference in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, but those situations only presented themselves because the top of the order found its stroke at the plate.

In a 6-4 loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday afternoon, the top of St. Louis' order -- Matt Carpenter, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday -- combined to go 6-for-11 with two RBIs, three extra-base hits and three runs scored.

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"I felt like they put together some pretty good at-bats," manager Mike Matheny said. "Once again, those are winning components to baseball."

After hitting a combined .305 during the regular season, the top third of the Cards' order was hitting just .146 (7-for-48) through the first four games of the NLCS. Game 6 is slated for Friday at 7:30 p.m. CT on TBS.

Although they had enjoyed their individual moments -- Beltran's walk-off hit in Game 1 and Holliday's mammoth home run in Game 4 -- Wednesday's contest was the first time the Cardinals' hitters clicked as a group and did so from the start of the game.

Carpenter led off with a single, Beltran followed with a walk and Holliday added a single.

"It's good when the top of the order gets on base, because you get the guys in the middle of the lineup to hit with guys in scoring position," Beltran said. "When that happens, you increase the opportunities of scoring runs."

Although the middle of the order struggled against Dodgers starter Zack Greinke and was unable to produce a first-inning run, the two hits and the walk were a sign that at least part of the St. Louis order was ready to go.

In the third, that trend continued and the top of the order produced a pair of runs on their own. With one out, Carpenter singled, Beltran roped an RBI triple -- his first hit since the Game 1 walk-off hit -- off the wall in center field and Holliday drove him in with a double -- his first of two -- to left-center field.

While the Cards undoubtedly want to see production from the entire lineup, knowing the top of the order is hitting again is likely a small silver lining as the team returns home up 3-2 in the series, needing just one win to secure a World Series berth.

William Boor is an associate reporter for

St. Louis Cardinals, Carlos Beltran, Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday