The Cardinals didn't rack up the runs, but they hit well -- especially considering the quality of the pitchers they were facing. They twice scratched out early leads against Halladay, the game's best pitcher. Even in defeat, the Cards forced Cole Hamels to throw nearly 120 pitches in six innings. And they had big nights against Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee.
They feature a deep lineup, with threats throughout, increasing the pressure on even a staff like the Phillies'.
Yet the Redbirds didn't exactly bash their way to wins. They hit enough, but it wasn't beer-league softball. They also got, for the most part, very strong starting pitching. Carpenter struggled a bit on short rest, and Kyle Lohse might have been asked to get one or two batters too many. But overall, despite playing three games at the hitters' haven of Citizens Bank Park, the starters excelled.
And then there's that revamped bullpen, which became quite a weapon after the club's late-July trades. Jason Motte threw gas to close out the first two wins, and manager Tony La Russa played matchups in Games 2 and 4. Ten of the 11 pitchers on the roster appeared, and five relievers pitched in three games each.
Yet, perhaps the most striking aspect of the Cards' success was defense. If there was one area for which the Redbirds were maligned all year, it was catching the ball. And here they were in Game 5, getting key play after key play -- from Rafael Furcal, from Jon Jay, from Yadier Molina, from Nick Punto.
It's defense that is often exposed in October, tripping up otherwise solid teams. If the Cards continue to catch the ball, they'll be in very good shape.
So in the end, there's not one reason the Cardinals are advancing. There are several, and that's excellent news going forward.
"The Cardinals are a good team," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "They've got a real good hitting club. And their starting pitching in this series was very good, and their bullpen did a better job and they were more consistent than they were during the season. They've got talent in their bullpen and they're consistent, but overall, they outplayed us."