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LOS ANGELES — The St. Louis Cardinals’ offensive slump is turning into another postseason drought, and not even Adam Wainwright could keep the Los Angeles Dodgers from getting back into the NL championship series.
Wainwright yielded six hits and two runs in seven innings, but the Cardinals couldn’t score a run for their ace in their third straight awful offensive game, losing 3-0 to the Dodgers in Game 3 on Monday night.
St. Louis managed just four singles and never got a runner to third base against Hyun-Jin Ryu and the Los Angeles bullpen, leaving the NL Central champions wondering where their offense has gone for the second straight NLCS despite a 2-1 series lead.
The Cardinals haven’t scored in the last 13 innings, since the fifth inning of Game 2, and they have managed just one run in the last two games combined. St. Louis has scored in just three of the 31 innings in this series altogether — not encouraging numbers heading into Game 4 on Tuesday night.
Cardinals fans could be excused for flashing back to last season’s NLCS, when their offense froze up at an equally inopportune time. The defending World Series champions had a 3-1 series lead before managing just one run in the final three games, allowing the San Francisco Giants to surge past the Cards all the way to another title.
St. Louis’ normally solid defense also was suspect. Although the Cardinals didn’t commit an error, they made a series of poor decisions in the outfield starting with Mark Ellis’ fly ball that dropped between outfielders Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran for a double in the fifth inning, starting the Dodgers’ go-ahead rally.
The Cardinals beat Dodgers aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the series’ first two games in St. Louis despite their meager offensive output, but Ryu outpitched Wainwright in front of an enthused Dodger Stadium crowd on a perfect night in Southern California.
St. Louis lost third baseman David Freese in the fifth inning when he complained of tightness in his right calf. The 2011 postseason hero, who scored the only run in Game 2, pulled up lame after singling for the Cardinals’ first hit off Ryu — and then pinch-runner Daniel Descalso got doubled off second base, short-circuiting St. Louis’ only significant rally.
Descalso was the only St. Louis runner who got into scoring position in Game 3.
Jay and Beltran expected the other to attempt to catch Ellis’ drive into the right-center gap, allowing the high-hit ball to drop harmlessly onto the grass.
After Adrian Gonzalez drove in Ellis with a one-out double, Beltran failed to make a play on Yasiel Puig’s ensuing drive into the right-field corner, allowing it to ricochet off the wall for an RBI triple.
Beltran has been a stellar defensive player at times in his career — although never an acrobatic fielder, usually preferring to pull up at the wall instead of tumbling over it.
He made an outstanding defensive play in the 10th inning of Game 1 of the NLCS, waving off Jay to catch a shallow fly ball from Michael Young. Beltran’s one-hop throw beat Mark Ellis to the plate by a good 5 feet, keeping the game tied.
But moments after his miscommunication with Jay, Beltran might have been able to play Puig’s long, high shot to right. Instead, he stopped his run and looked into the stands while the ball hit the wall just shy of a homer.
Beltran then couldn’t throw out the showboating Puig, who left home plate slowly and celebrated well before arriving at third base with a standup triple.
Jay failed to catch A.J. Ellis’ triple to right-center in the fifth inning despite getting a glove on the well-hit ball, but Wainwright stranded Ellis on third with three straight outs.
The Cardinals’ mistakes weren’t confined to the field, either. Descalso inexplicably broke hard from second base on Jay’s tailing fly to left field in the fifth inning, and Carl Crawford easily doubled him up — a mental mistake that gets magnified exponentially in a close postseason game.
Another defensive decision cost the Cardinals in the eighth. Second baseman Kolten Wong threw to second instead of home after failing to snag Hanley Ramirez’s shallow pop to center, allowing Crawford to roar home from second with the Dodgers’ third run.