Beltran plays leading role without supporting cast
Cards All-Star ties game twice, including 16th playoff HR, but club 1-for-5 with RISP
PITTSBURGH -- Carlos Beltran is only one man. And try as he might, he's only been able to do so much to resuscitate the Cardinals' situational hitting in this National League Division Series.
The latest addendum to Beltran's remarkable postseason résumé -- his second homer in these three games, and 16th in his postseason career, as well as a two-run single -- wasn't enough for the Cards to pull through on Sunday night in a 5-3 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park. St. Louis went 1-for-5 with men in scoring position in Game 3, and the club is 3-for-20 in the series.
"We hit a few at them in key situations that could have turned things around," manager Mike Matheny said. "We had a couple of big at-bats where either a pitch here or there, it could have gone our way and it would have been a whole different situation. We weren't able to stack them one on top of one another. Fortunately, Carlos was a lot of offense and kept us right there."
Beltran betters Babe
Baseball's best regular-season team with runners in scoring position has encountered an unfortunate time for those tables to turn. With a .330 average in such situations this year, the Cardinals were a remarkable 48 points better than the second-best Tigers. No team in the last 10 years had hit better than .311 with men in scoring position.
"Especially against a staff like they have, when you have opportunities, you have to come through," Cards third baseman David Freese said about the struggles against the Bucs. "Like [Matt Holliday's] ball today, he smacked that. What are you going to do? But yeah, this is about execution. This is about production. They executed tonight more than we did."
True enough, one of Cardinals' best opportunities of the evening came with the bases loaded in the third. With Pirates starter Francisco Liriano -- 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA in four career starts against the Cards heading into the night -- in his first bit of trouble, Holliday ripped an 88-mph fastball deep to right field, but directly at Marlon Byrd.
After Jon Jay singled and Pete Kozma walked to lead off the fifth, Beltran delivered a two-run single to left, but that was the only time St. Louis came through on the night. Beltran's homer in the eighth, surpassing Babe Ruth for eighth most (16) in postseason history, came without men on base.
"He's simply amazing," Sunday's Cardinals starter Joe Kelly said. "I just saw a stat that he passed Babe Ruth. To play with a guy like that on your team who could be a Hall of Famer, that's pretty special."
Carlos comes up clutch
"I see Hall of Famer," Freese said, adding to the praise for Beltran, a soon-to-be free agent. "Absolutely. I wish I had a vote. It's unbelievable. He's getting more expensive by the day."
The veteran has six RBIs in the Cards' three postseason games this year, and 31 in 37 career playoff games. In 16 career Division Series games, Beltran's 20 RBIs rank second in NL postseason history, behind only Chipper Jones (26). He is also baseball's active leader in playoff batting average (.360) and slugging percentage (.794).
"God has really allowed me to come through," Beltran said. "Hard work, I always come to the ballpark and prepare myself and try to approach the game the simplest way. I'm not trying to put pressure on me. I just try to have fun. You never know when it's going to be the next opportunity to play in games like this one."
The Cardinals will find themselves in an all-too-familiar scenario on Monday, with their backs against the wall in an elimination game. Should they find themselves at the plate with runners in scoring position, the difference between their regular-season and postseason splits could be the difference between advancing and the offseason.
"I feel pretty good about our offense," catcher Yadier Molina said. "We did our part [Sunday], but it wasn't enough."