Cardinals no stranger to playing NLCS games

Cardinals no stranger to playing NLCS games

For the fourth time in as many years, the St. Louis Cardinals are back in the National League Championship Series.

The Cardinals earned a 3-2 win over the Dodgers in Game 4 of the NL Division Series on Tuesday to advance to their 13th Championship Series overall -- the most in the history of the NL. They are the first team to reach the LCS four consecutive times since the Yankees did it from 1998-2001.

  Date   Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 3   STL 10, LAD 9 video
Gm 2 Oct. 4   LAD 3, STL 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 6   STL 3, LAD 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 7   STL 3, LAD 2 video

Among the holdovers from the three previous years currently on this year's active postseason roster are catchers Yadier Molina and Tony Cruz; infielders Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma; outfielders Matt Holliday and Jon Jay; and pitchers Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn.

Over those last four years, the Cardinals have gone 365-283 in the regular season and 30-22 in October. They've faced elimination nine times and advanced in seven of them. They won two division titles and advanced to the World Series twice, winning it once.

Here's how they did it:

2011

St. Louis' NLCS run began in a year that resulted in the franchise's 11th World Series title and second in the last decade. That season, Tony La Russa's last as manager, the Cardinals secured the NL Wild Card spot by winning 23 of their last 32 games.

They matched up with the NL East-champion Phillies in the NLDS, splitting the first four games. In Game 5, Chris Carpenter tossed a three-hit shutout against Roy Halladay and the Phillies, advancing the Cards to the NLCS for the first time since 2006. They lost Game 1 to the Brewers, but took four of the next five to claim the NL pennant.

St. Louis fell behind in the World Series before mounting a historic comeback in Game 6. With his team trailing, 7-5, in the bottom of the ninth, David Freese knocked a two-out, two-strike triple to tie the game and then later won it with a walk-off homer in the 11th. The Cards went on to win the Series with a 6-2 victory in Game 7.

2012

In Mike Matheny's first year at the helm, the defending champions won 88 games, clinching a spot in the inaugural NL Wild Card Game against Atlanta. The Cardinals downed the Braves, 6-3, in the one-game playoff, then outlasted the No. 1-seeded Nationals for five games in the NLDS. The series featured yet another historic comeback as St. Louis rallied from an early 6-0 deficit in Game 5 to win, 9-7, scoring four runs in the ninth inning.

St. Louis got off to a strong start in the NLCS against San Francisco, winning three of the first four games, but then collapsed, losing three straight to the eventual World Series winners.

It was just the 11th time time in MLB history that a team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven playoff series. The Cardinals are the only club to be on the losing end more than once, and it's happened four times -- the 1968 and '85 World Series, as well as the '96 and 2012 NLCS.

2013

And most recently, the Cardinals matched their 2011 record of 90-72, locking up the NL Central crown in the process. They survived a five-game series with division-rival Pittsburgh, which was making its first postseason appearance since 1992.

Next up was Los Angeles and a third straight NLCS appearance. Rookie hurler Michael Wacha shined against the Dodgers, tossing 13 2/3 scoreless innings, beating L.A. ace Clayton Kershaw twice and earning series MVP honors as the Cardinals advanced to the Fall Classic.

The '13 Cardinals would eventually run out of steam in the World Series, losing two of three at Busch Stadium and falling to the Red Sox in six games.

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