LOS ANGELES (AP) — Carlos Beltran thought Jon Jay had it. Jay thought Beltran had it.
Turns out nobody had Mark Ellis' fly ball to right-center. It plopped on the Dodger Stadium grass between the St. Louis Cardinals' experienced outfielders, who looked for a moment like bewildered Little Leaguers.
A team struggling for offense as mightily as the Cardinals can't afford to give away hits to its opponent, and Beltran realized their joint mistake made the difference in Game 3 of the NL championship series.
He was correct. Ellis ended up scoring the only run the Los Angeles Dodgers needed in a 3-0 victory Monday night.
And not even Adam Wainwright could rescue the Cards when they couldn't hit — or catch a fairly ordinary fly ball.
"Sometimes being aggressive, you can make a lot of mistakes," said Beltran, a three-time Gold Glove winner. "Just miscommunication. I don't think it's a lack of concentration. I think sometimes you get caught up in the moment."
St. Louis missed its moment to take firm control of this series despite a gem from Wainwright, who yielded six hits and two runs in seven innings. The Cardinals couldn't score a run for their ace in their third straight awful offensive game, managing just four singles and never getting a runner to third base against Hyun-Jin Ryu and the Los Angeles bullpen.
The Cardinals are batting .134 with just three extra-base hits and four total runs during the lowest-scoring LCS in major league history so far. They got just one runner in scoring position in this shutout — and that was pinch-runner Daniel Descalso, who got doubled off second base in the fifth.
St. Louis' normally solid defense also was suspect. Although the Cardinals didn't commit an error, they made a series of poor decisions starting with Ellis' fly ball in the fourth inning, leading to the Dodgers' go-ahead rally.
Jay took full responsibility for the fourth-inning blunder — and Beltran tacitly agreed.
"It's a ball I've got to catch," Jay said. "I'm the center fielder. It's my ball. I've got to take charge."
Beltran also couldn't make a play on Yasiel Puig's RBI triple for Los Angeles' second run moments later. A relay mistake then allowed the Dodgers' third run to score in the eighth.
Add in a horrible baserunning blunder by Descalso, and the Cardinals were cooked.
"It wasn't very characteristic of how we played all season," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "Our team has done a great job of improving defensively. We just had a lot of balls in the air tonight that hit the ground that normally don't. We're a better club than this."
Defensive mistakes aside, the NL Central champions are still up 2-1 — but they're starting to wonder where their offense has gone for the second straight NLCS.
"We were fortunate to win the first two (with poor hitting)," said David Freese, who isn't sure he'll play in Game 4 after leaving with tightness in his right calf. "We've got to get the sticks going a little bit."
The Cardinals haven't scored in the last 13 innings, since the fifth inning of Game 2, and they have managed just one run in the last two games combined. St. Louis has scored in just three of the 31 innings in this series altogether — not encouraging numbers heading into Game 4 on Tuesday night.
"Most of the time, when you keep the other side to three runs, we're going to win the game," Wainwright said. "In the playoffs, this is the way it goes sometimes. A play here, a play there, they could be up 2-0."
Cardinals fans could be excused for flashing back to last season's NLCS, when their offense froze up at an equally inopportune time. The defending World Series champions had a 3-1 series lead before managing just one run in the final three games, allowing the San Francisco Giants to surge past the Cards all the way to another title.
"We all know what happened last year, but this is a new season and a new group of guys," said leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter, who went 0 for 4. "Runs are at a premium in the postseason. We've got to figure out some ways to score."
The Cardinals beat Dodgers aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the series' first two games in St. Louis despite their meager offensive output, but Ryu outpitched Wainwright in front of an enthused Dodger Stadium crowd on a perfect night in Southern California.
St. Louis lost Freese in the fifth inning of Game 3 when he apparently tweaked his calf on a swing. The 2011 postseason hero had just singled for the Cardinals' first hit off Ryu — but Descalso replaced him and inexplicably broke hard from second on Jay's tailing fly ball to right, allowing Carl Crawford to easily double him up.
"I just misread it," Descalso said. "It's a terrible feeling. Once I realized it was going to get caught, I was too far away to get back."
Another defensive decision cost the Cardinals in the eighth. Second baseman Kolten Wong threw to second instead of home after failing to snag Hanley Ramirez's shallow pop to center, allowing Crawford to roar home from second with the Dodgers' third run.