ST. LOUIS – Now just one win from a second straight trip to the World Series, the Cardinals finally got contributions from a trio of slumping bats Thursday night.
And that can only mean one thing for the Giants and possibly the Detroit Tigers: look out.
Jon Jay, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina awoke from playoff-long skids and combined for six hits, six RBIs and three runs in an 8-3 thrashing of the visiting San Francisco Giants in Game 4 of the NLCS.
The win gives the Cardinals a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. It also gave their powerful offense a jump start.
“In the postseason, the stats don’t always look great,” Holliday said. “You’re facing the toughest pitchers in the league, and the reasons these guys are in the playoffs is because of the pitching usually.
“So a lot of times the stats, guys feel better about their swings than the stats show. Obviously, hits help with confidence, and all of us getting hits today and contributing to the victory and scoring eight runs, hopefully we’ll carry the confidence over into tomorrow.”
And it’s rather remarkable that they find themselves just one win from the World Series when three key bats in their lineup have provided virtually nothing to the cause.
Jay hit .305 as the Cardinals leadoff man during the regular season but had just six hits in 36 at-bats in the nine postseason games coming in. He was 2-for-12 in the three NLCS games before leading off the bottom of the first inning with a sharp single up the middle off Giants starter Tim Lincecum.
The left-handed-swinging Jay scored on a single by Holliday to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. He then put the game out of reach with a big two-run double into the right-center gap in the sixth inning to make it 6-1.
“He’s a table setter,” said infielder Dan Descalso. “That guy has had great at-bats for us all year, especially out of the one hole. He sets the table and gets stuff going. If he’s on base for the big boys, it’s tough.
“Those guys are all going to hit sooner or later. They will figure it out. Those guys are all great hitters. They may go a few games, but they aren’t going to go more than a few without doing something.”
Jay said: “I’m just going out there trying to have good at-bats, and balls were able to fall for me today. I’ve felt fine.”
Holliday was hitting just .222 (8-for-36) in the postseason before scoring Jay with his bouncing single up the middle. He followed with another RBI hit in the fifth inning to put the Cardinals up 3-1 before scoring the fourth run on a hit from Molina.
The Cardinals’ No. 3 hitter has received plenty of criticism around St. Louis for his perceived lack of clutch hitting. He entered Wednesday’s game with just one hit in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position in the playoffs before getting a pair of hits in two chances in the first five innings.
“It was nice to see,” said third baseman David Freese. “You see Jon Jay get going, Allen Craig, Yadi, Matt. They’ve been battling it a little bit, but huge knocks tonight. They stepped up. That’s real nice to see, especially moving forward.”
The Cardinals have been feast or famine for much of the playoffs, just like they were during the regular season. They’ve scored 6, 12, 8, 9, 6, 3 and 8 in their seven wins and 2, 1 and 1 in their three losses.
Molina was in the biggest slump of them all entering Game 4. He had five hits in 33 at-bats (.152 average) after finishing fourth in the National League in the regular season with a .315 mark.
The MVP candidate had just two RBIs this postseason but doubled that number in consecutive at-bats against the Giants. He singled home Holliday in the fifth and doubled home Allen Craig in the seventh to put the Cardinals up 8-1.
“Finally,” Molina said. “Everybody knows I am having a tough time at the plate, but finally I got one through and then another one in the seventh inning. It made me feel good.
“I’ve been feeling good. I’m seeing the ball good and I’m making hard contact, but I haven’t found any holes. Tonight, I did twice, and it made me feel good. Every time you don’t get hits and don’t help the team, that makes you feel frustrated, but that wasn’t the case tonight. Tonight was a good night.”
The Cardinals hope to have plenty of good nights left in them. And if the middle of their lineup continues to get hot, they could be well on their way to a second straight World Series title.