LOS ANGELES -- If the pattern holds, the Cardinals' offense will break through Tuesday night.
That would be the every-fourth-game pattern, of course. Think about it. The Cardinals opened the postseason with a nine-run outburst against the Pirates. The bats then turned cold for three games. Just in time for Game 5 of the NL Division Series, they woke up and scored six runs. Since then, three more games and a total of four runs.
So this being the fourth game, the Cardinals are due for a big night against Dodgers right-hander Ricky Nolasco, the scheduled Game 4 starter.
While this is an admittedly small and silly sample size, it's as good a way to forecast the randomness of the postseason as any. There are at least two other reasons, however, to think the Cardinals will produce more than the four singles they managed in Game 3 Monday night.
Nolasco has not done much for the Dodgers lately. In his first 12 starts after being traded by the Marlins, the 30-year-old right-hander when 8-1 with a 2.07 ERA. But in his last three, he gave up five, six and six runs while lasting a total of 12 innings. He was pitching so poorly that the Dodgers pulled him from his scheduled start in the NLDS to go with Clayton Kershaw on short rest.
Several Cardinals have enjoyed success against Nolasco through the years. Carlos Beltran is 17 for 46 (.340), Matt Holliday 12 for 26 (.462) with two homers, Jon Jay 7 for 13 (.538) and David Freese 6 for 12. While the rest of the regulars are hitting less than .300 against Nolasco, at least they have seen him. Everyone except Pete Kozma, who hasn't batted against him, has faced Nolasco at least five times.
Of course, you can flip the numbers and come up with twice as many reasons to believe the Cardinals' struggles will continue.
As gawdy as are their numbers off Nolasco, many of them were put up in seasons past. Nolasco beat the Cardinals both times he faced them in 2013, once with the Marlins in June (seven innings, one run) and the other with the Dodgers in August (five innings, zero earned runs).
More significantly, Freese had to exit Monday night's 3-0 loss with a sore calf. Even if he is able to play, he is unlikely to be at 100 percent. His likely replacement, Daniel Descalso, is just 2 for 11 in the postseason. (That said, his .182 average actually is two points higher than the team's postseason batting average.)
With Descalso in the lineup, the Cardinals' already thin bench becomes even more of a weakness. Kolten Wong, Adron Chambers and Shane Robinson are a combined 0 for 9 in the playoffs. Backup catcher Tony Cruz, who at least has a little power, has yet to bat in the postseason because the Cardinals opted to keep Chambers and Wong on the roster instead of adding a third catcher, Rob Johnson.
As cold as their bats have gone, more than one game might be needed for them to heat back up. The Cardinals have totaled six hits in the past two games, and two of those came close to being robbed by Dodgers outfielders. After eight games, the highest batting average is Yadier Molina's .286. Matt Carpenter, Jay, Descalso, Holliday and Freese all are under .200. Even Beltran, the best postseason hitter of the past 10 years, is hitting only .207.
After being shut out 3-0 in Game 3, the Cardinals had few answers for their offensive woes. They tipped their hats to the Dodgers' pitching and talked about the need to grind out at-bats.
Earlier, Cardinals Game 4 starter Lance Lynn acknowledged that hitters on both teams might be held down only so long.
"We have two great offenses here that haven't done anything yet, so there could be a couple good games offensively," Lynn said."I've never been one to be naive to the fact that somebody's probably due."
Based on the every-fourth-game pattern, that would be the Cardinals.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.