Slumping Holliday and Carpenter Must Wake Up, Ignite Cardinals' Stagnant Offense

Jason CataniaMLB Lead WriterOctober 15, 2013

For the St. Louis Cardinals, this is a matter of good news and bad news. Let's start with the bad.

The club was shut out 3-0 by the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, and the lineup's two main Matts, Holliday and Carpenter, are simply not hitting.

Through the first three games, the veteran outfielder and the breakout second baseman have combined to go just 2-for-23 (.087) with one extra-base hit. In the regular season, Holliday hit .300 with 22 homers, 94 RBI and 103 runs, while Carpenter hit .318 with 126 runs and 55 doubles (both tops in baseball this season).

Incidentally, that knock—a triple off the bat of Carpenter that came on the very first pitch Clayton Kershaw threw in Game 2—was the last one either player has mustered. Holliday, in case you haven't noticed, is oh-fer the NLCS so far.

(And hey, if you add St. Louis' other Matt, Mr. Adams, the trio is a combined 3-for-33.)

To be fair to the righty-hitting Holliday and lefty-swinging Carpenter, the entire Cardinals lineup isn't hitting this round, and it's not exactly a secret. Consider this little ditty from ESPN Stats & Info:

For sure, a lot of credit goes to the Dodgers pitchers, namely right-hander Zack Greinke and lefties Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who started Games 1, 2 and 3 in that order.

Still, we're talking about a St. Louis lineup that finished first in the NL in runs scored by a wide margin. We're also talking about Carpenter and Holliday, who posted the top two OPSes on the team. As the leadoff and No. 3 hitters, they were arguably the primary producers for this offense during the regular season.

It might not seem possible to make matters worse, but third baseman David Freese was forced out of Game 3 with calf tightness in the fifth inning. He's listed as day-to-day, per Scott Miller of CBS Sports.

However, if Freese—one of St. Louis' postseason wonders (along with Carlos Beltran)—is less than 100 percent going forward this series, it only compounds the situation by putting more pressure on Holliday and Carpenter to turn it around. 

All of this has to have some Cardinals fans wondering just how bad Allen Craig on one foot could be. (Alas, because he was left off the NLCS roster, he can't help even if he was ready, willing and able.)

Think the Cardinals could use a little Allen Craig?
Think the Cardinals could use a little Allen Craig?Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

But then, here's the good news.

Despite all of the offensive ineptitude through Game 3, St. Louis still controls this series, up two games to one heading into Tuesday night's Game 4. Considering how offensive the offense has been, things couldn't be much better for the Red Birds, and they certainly could be a heck of a lot worse.

It's not like Holliday and Carpenter can't turn it around, either. While the latter has struggled all October long (3-for-30, .100/.206/.167), Holliday did hit .300/.333/.500 with a double and a homer against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Just as promising?

Unless the Dodgers decide to throw Greinke on three days' rest, the Cardinals hitters will likely face right-hander Ricky Nolasco.

If Nolasco pitches, he will not only be making his first-ever postseason start, but he'll also be pitching for the first time since Sept. 29. If you think that seems like a long time ago, it is. That was the last game of the regular season, which ended, oh, just over two weeks ago.

Although Carpenter has faced Nolasco only six times and come up with just one hit, Holliday has thrived.

Holliday is 12-for-27 (.462) with a pair of homers among six extra-base hits. He owns a 1.366 career OPS, which is the second-highest career OPS against the righty (among players with at least 25 plate appearances).

Talk about a sight for sore bats.

Even though they lost Game 3 behind their ace, Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals remain in the driver's seat in the NLCS. Carpenter and Holliday proved all season long that they have what it takes to hit the gas.

Now it's just a matter of finding the pedal.