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10/10/09 11:16 PM ET

Cards outperformed by robust opponent

NL Central champs see greatness in Dodgers

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals may have had several chances to score runs in Game 1 of the National League Division Series and were only an out away from a win in Game 2, but after being ousted from the playoffs with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night, the fact of the matter is simple: the better team probably won.

The Cardinals scored just six runs in three games and went a dismal 4-for-30 with runners in scoring position. The Dodgers, meanwhile, scored all five of their runs in the clinching 5-1 victory on Saturday night with two outs. The Dodgers outscored the Cardinals 9-1 with two outs.

Simply put, the Dodgers made the plays when they needed to and the Cardinals didn't.

"They had the best record in the National League and you can't wonder why," said infielder Julio Lugo. "It shows. The numbers are there. They have a great team."

The Cardinals won 91 games in the regular season but won just two of their last 13, including the playoff sweep. After clinching the NL Central title in Colorado, they won just one of seven games to close out the regular season.

And while the Dodgers stumbled down the stretch as well, they were able to turn things around when it counted. Los Angeles led the National League with 95 wins and looked every bit that good in sending the Cardinals home without a win in the postseason for just the second time in franchise history.

Cardinals players didn't need to admit it -- the stats did that -- but the better team likely advanced to the next round.

"They beat us, and we're a good team," said reliever Trever Miller. "And they beat us pretty soundly. They swept us, and I wasn't expecting that at all. They have no weaknesses that I see. They have a quality lineup. There's not one guy in there that you can pitch around because they can all do damage.

Division Series
Gm. 1LAD 5, STL 3WrapVideo
Gm. 2LAD 3, STL 2WrapVideo
Gm. 3LAD 5, STL 1WrapVideo

"Now they get to go home and rest up for a few days and see who they are going to play and kind of set their roster and be ready to go. Whoever they play in the next series, it's going to be a tough one for their opponent."

The game plan for the Cardinals to get back in the series with a win on Saturday was to score first and get the crowd involved in the game. Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez made sure that neither of those things happened, lining a two-out double in the first to score Matt Kemp and put the Dodgers in front before the Cardinals even had a chance to bat.

Ramirez doubled again in the third and had an RBI single in the seventh, his eighth three-hit game in his postseason career. His two RBIs gave him 32 in Division Series play, one short of Bernie Williams' record of 33.

"You have to remember, they got a couple of hits by one of the best hitters in the game," Lugo said. "Manny Ramirez is one of the best producers in the game. They're just good. Whoever they play, they are going to be tough."

The Cardinals were picked to win the series by several national pundits but never recovered from their late-season slide. As they head home for the winter to think about their missed chances, the Dodgers head home to await an opponent in the NL Championship Series.

"You're frustrated because it was so close and because it means so much," said pitcher John Smoltz. "But when you look back, yeah they did win the most games in the National League and they had their share of injuries, too, but they just found a way to win three games before we did.

"I think they are going to be awfully tough to beat."

B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.