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A resurgent Adams could spark Cards' offense

First baseman's struggles at the plate have been emblematic of team's NLCS woes

ST. LOUIS -- When the Cardinals lost starting first baseman and RBIs leader Allen Craig to a sprained foot in September, a drop-off in production was to be expected when rookie Matt Adams replaced him in the lineup.

But Adams did more than just fill in -- he nearly replicated Craig's All-Star-caliber numbers. After Craig went down, Adams hit .326 with eight home runs and 15 RBIs through the end of the regular season.

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Since the playoffs began, however, that production has slowed. Adams' bat has cooled and Craig's absence is being felt.

Through his first 10 postseason games, Adams, 25, is hitting .237 (9-for-38) with one homer, three RBIs, two walks and a dozen strikeouts. And he isn't the only St. Louis batter struggling at the plate. As a team, the Cardinals are batting just .178 (29-for-163) versus the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. If the Redbirds -- up three games to two -- win the series, they are on pace to break the lowest mark by an LCS winner, which was set at .183 by Oakland in 1974. Game 6 is Friday night at 7:30 p.m. CT on TBS.

In the first inning of Wednesday's Game 5, Adams' struggles continued, as he chased a Zack Greinke curveball down in the zone for a swinging strikeout with the bases loaded.

"It was one I need to recognize sooner and try to lay off," Adams said. "[The Dodgers] are pitching me the same, basically. I mean, if I keep chasing, they're just going to keep throwing it down there. That's one thing I have to get better on in Game 6 and Game 7."

Though Craig could return in some capacity for the World Series, the Cardinals will need Adams at his best if they hope to get there. He could potentially have to do so against a pair of tough left-handers in Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who are slated to start Games 6 and 7, if necessary, for Los Angeles.

In limited opportunities versus left-handers this season, Adams batted .231 (12-for-52) with no walks and 19 strikeouts. When facing lefties in the postseason, manager Mike Matheny has dropped Adams down from fourth to sixth in the order.

"As long as I stick to what I'm comfortable with, I'll be fine," said Adams, who conceded that Kershaw will present a particularly difficult challenge on Friday. "It's going to be a tough game. [Cardinals starter Michael] Wacha is going to come out and do his part, and we're just going to have to battle [in our] at-bats against [Kershaw]."

Though the Cardinals' offense has largely been quiet this October, the St. Louis bats displayed some signs of life in Wednesday's Game 5 loss. The top three hitters -- Matt Carpenter, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday -- combined to go 6-for-10 with two RBIs and a walk, and Adams and Pete Kozma had RBI-singles in the ninth inning.

"I believe in momentum. I believe that we had a momentum shift [Wednesday]," Matheny said. "You can kind of sense when things are getting ready to click. We're getting a little closer there. It's been nice to have the pitching that we've had to be in the position that we're in right now without that offense. But that offense has been something that's been, I believe, a big defining portion of our club this season."

Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for

St. Louis Cardinals, Matt Adams