Jon Jay was the last Cardinals player out of the shower Monday, which is understandable because there were a lot of things he needed to wash away.
Like the memories of Mark Ellis' fourth-inning fly ball that he let drop for a double, setting up a two-run Dodgers rally. Or the fifth-inning drive by A.J. Ellis that went off his glove for a triple.
"It's something that I'm probably going to think about a little bit," Jay said softly.
His teammates, too. Because Jay's two miscues and mental lapses by right fielder Carlos Beltran and second baseman Kolten Wong led to all the runs in the Dodgers' 3-0 victory in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, swinging the momentum back to the Dodgers in the best-of-seven matchup.
"It wasn't very characteristic of how we played all season," Manager Mike Matheny said. "We just had a lot of balls in the air that hit the ground that normally don't. We're a better club than this."
That last point may be open to debate. Because while the Cardinals made the fewest errors in the league, only one team showed less range that St. Louis. And although Jay made only one error in the regular season, he ranked as the NL's second-worst center fielder.
It was a recipe that was repeated Monday, when the Cardinals were charged with no errors. But had they made the plays they missed, the game might have gone to extra innings scoreless.
Jay took the blame for the first mistake when he and Beltran, after long runs, stopped to look at each other, allowing Mark Ellis' fly ball to drop untouched. Two batters later Ellis, scored the only run the Dodgers would need.
"It's a ball I've got to catch. I'm the center fielder. It's my ball," Jay said. "I've got to make the play there. It came back to haunt us. It's definitely tough to swallow this loss."
An inning later, Jay got a glove on A.J. Ellis' drive to the center-field warning track. It would have been an exceptional catch had he held on to the ball, but when it bounced away, Beltran retrieved it and made a lazy throw to the infield, allowing the Dodgers catcher to reach third base without a play.
The third mistake came in the eighth inning when Wong, who had just gone into the game, couldn't make a play on Hanley Ramirez's blooper to shallow center field. But he compounded that by nonchalantly throwing the ball in, allowing Carl Crawford to race home from second base.
Mix in a baserunning error by Daniel Descalso, who ran into a double when he dashed toward third base on Jay's fifth-inning fly ball to left field, and a team that rarely beats itself did just that.
"Sometimes being too aggressive, you can make a lot of mistakes," Beltran said. "I don't think it's a lack of concentration. We all want to go out there and make the plays and do our jobs. But sometimes you just get caught in the moment."
And right now that moment is the playoffs where, as the Cardinals well know, every miscue is magnified, especially when your team is batting .134.
"We just have to do a good job of coming out tomorrow with some energy and not letting this one kind of drag on," second baseman Matt Carpenter said. "Runs are at a premium in the postseason. It's tough to score. But we've got to find a way."
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