By R.B. Fallstrom
The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO - The St. Louis Cardinals struggled to get clutch hits, and it cost them a chance to reach the World Series.
Like they have throughout the NL championship series, the Cardinals squandered plenty of scoring opportunities and were eliminated with a 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants in Game 5 on Monday night.
The Cardinals were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position against Kirk Rueter and Felix Rodriguez, making them a feeble 3-for-39 in the NLCS after they batted .278 in the regular season.
They left five on the first three innings, and eight overall for a two-game total of 20 - numbers that will haunt them in the offseason.
The lone success was Fernando Vina's sacrifice fly in the seventh inning off Rodriguez that snapped a scoreless tie.
Even Matt Morris' determined pitching wasn't enough as the Cardinals made their second five-game exit in the NLCS in three years. They haven't been to the World Series since 1987 and haven't won it all since 1982.
It was a quiet end to a turbulent season for the Cardinals, who recovered from the death of pitcher Darryl Kile and numerous pitching injuries to win the NL Central and make their third straight playoff appearance.
The Cardinals were forced to use 14 starting pitchers in the regular season, but benefited from the unlikely midseason comeback by Andy Benes and the emergence of 28-year-old rookie Jason Simontacchi.
They were hamstrung in the playoffs by Scott Rolen's sprained left shoulder, which kept him unavailable throughout the NLCS. The team optimistically included him on the roster for the second round, but he never made significant progress leaving manager Tony La Russa with a short bench.
Morris lasted 8 2-3 innings, his longest outing since he beat the Cubs with a four-hit shutout on May 13. La Russa allowed Morris to bat in the top of the ninth, but finally removed him after two-out hits by David Bell and Shawon Dunston.
Lofton, who had been 11-for-20 against Morris in his career counting the playoffs, followed with a single off Steve Kline. Last year, Kline gave up the winning hit in the Cardinals' division series elimination game to Tony Womack, also in Game 5.
Morris made a strong rebound from the Game 1 start at Busch Stadium that got the Cardinals off on the wrong foot. He faced 16 hitters and allowed five runs the first two innings of the Giants' 9-6 opening victory, but in Game 5 he didn't allow a baserunner until he hit Lofton with a pitch to start the fourth or a hit until Bell doubled with two outs in the fifth.
La Russa tinkered with his lineup to try to get the team going. He benched Tino Martinez, a star in past Octobers with the Yankees but 2-for-25 this postseason with one RBI, in favor of Eduardo Perez. That move didn't pan out as Perez stranded runners in scoring position his first two at-bats.
La Russa also reinserted Miguel Cairo, a surprise star earlier in the playoffs with seven straight hits who had not played in Games 3 and 4. Cairo, the NL's second-best pinch hitter in the regular season, responded with two hits and was 9-for-17 in the postseason.
Spikes sounds off
LeBeau: I'm going to work my tail off
Westbrook exits after declared as inactive
MNF: 49ers 28, Seahawks 21
Two longtime laughingstocks surging toward the Super Bowl
Broken thumb benches Dolphins QB Fiedler
Fan balloting for Pro Bowl begins Tuesday
Davis goes on defensive after loss
Bearcats' Barker smiles all the way
Ex-UC player Little goes on trial for roommate assault
Bearcats' quarterback situation unsettled
Southern Miss suspends starting tackle
Mistakes at critical times costing Cats
Smith looking forward to rare Saturday game
Grossman's Florida QB job at risk
Lazier returns, looking to 2003
Blue Jackets drop penalty-filled game
Cavs' Ilgauskas suspended one game
Tennis Hall dedicated tonight
Payroll jump only a bump?
Giants 2, Cardinals 1
Lack of clutch hitting dooms Cardinals
Eisner lauds Anaheim's 'Disneyesque' finish
It's all set: Giants vs. Angels in World Series
M's allow teams to talk with Lou
Unbeaten neighbors gird for gridiron
Lakota West ties Lakota East 1-1, but reaps rewards
Purcell Marian opens sectional soccer with win
High school polls
High school results, schedule
Return to Reds front page...