Watch out, Nationals. Here come the Cardinals!

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The Cardinals won in Atlanta on Friday and will host the Nationals in the NLDS beginning Sunday despite the fact that…

– they got outhit but the Braves 12-6

– they had just two extra-base hits to the Braves’ four

– their hitters failed to draw even a single walk, while their pitchers gave up three

That’s a recipe for a quiet plane ride home. Yet the Cardinals are returning to St. Louis triumphant thanks to some dreadful defense by the Braves — just their fourth three-error game of the year — and their ability to capitalize on mistakes.

Which is what we should have come to expect from these Cardinals. They’re at their best when they’re not very good.

The Cardinals have won two World Series since 2000. The teams that won the championships had the club’s seventh- and 11th-best records of the 12 years. Those Albert Pujols-led clubs won as many as 105 games, yet it was the teams that won 83 games in 2006 in 90 games in 2011 that claimed titles.

There’s no reason this Cardinals team can’t go far, too. While they used their most successful starter in Kyle Lohse today, they still have Adam Wainwright ready to go Sunday. Then they can throw Jaime Garcia at home, where he’s almost always successful, and Chris Carpenter and Lohse on the road.

Offensively, the Cardinals are more than a match for the Nats, scoring 765 runs to Washington’s 731 this year. If they’re still perhaps the lesser team overall, well, that just means they have the Nationals right where they want them.

Starters? Openers? Who cares? It’s the lack of offense killing the Brewers

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The talk of Game 5 of the NLCS — and, indeed, the talk of the postseason so far — has been the Brewers’ creative use of their pitching staff. Indeed, Craig Counsell calling for Brandon Woodruff, and removing Miley from the game after just one batter and five pitches, stands as one of the more audacious acts of bullpenning in recent memory.

In light of that strategy, it was tempting to compare and contrast the Brewers’ approach to that of the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw gave up an early run and, as has so often been the case lately, didn’t look super sharp early. But as the game wore on he got stronger, his curve got more devastating and he turned in an ace-like performance, leaving after seven innings of work, retiring the final 13 batters he faced. The Brewers may have an army of pitchers they throw at you, but the Dodgers, on this night, had a Hulk.

That’s all a lot of fun, and it was a tempting narrative to grab a hold of, but you know what? It doesn’t matter a bit. The fact of the matter is that the Brewers have scored two runs in the last 17 innings between Games 4 and 5. Two runs, with one of them being an oh-by-the-way run with out in the ninth tonight. They’ve only scored three runs in their last 24 innings. They could have a college of coaches using a murder of pitchers and they’d still be staring at being down 3-2 like they are right now because the bats have gone cold.

The presumptive NL MVP, Christian Yelich, was 0-for-4 in Game 5 and is only 3-for-20 with three singles in the entire NLCS. Ryan Braun is 5-for-21. Lorenzo Cain is 6-for-24. Games 3 and 4 have, obviously, been the big problems for the Brewers. In those games the entire team is batting .168 with 26 strikeouts and they are 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Craig Counsell could go back in time, bring back Pete Vukovich, Rollie Fingers, Teddy Higuera, Moose Haas and Jim Slaton, use them all for an inning and two-thirds each and it wouldn’t matter if the Brewers can’t score. That’s the story of the series so far. No matter how much we might want to talk about the pitching shenanigans, that’s the only thing that really matters.