LOS ANGELES -- Matt Adams has identified the problem. Now he needs to apply the solution.
The Cardinals' rookie first baseman has struck out nine times in 19 at-bats, with just three hits, in the first five games of the National League championship series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Two of those hits came Wednesday, including a line-drive, run-scoring single in the ninth. But many of the burly lefthanded hitter's at-bats in the series have ended with the result he had in the first inning.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Los Angeles righthander Zack Greinke struck out Adams on a low breaking ball.
"I'm chasing pitches they want me to chase," Adams said.
When Yadier Molina subsequently grounded into the first of two killer double plays he would rap into, the Cardinals were stymied.
Adams got himself in trouble in that inning when he took a first-pitch fastball for a strike. "I should have swung at that one, and then I chased a couple of pitches out of the zone," Adams said.
On strike three, Adams said, "It was one I needed to recognize sooner and lay off. It was a bad pitch to swing at. I just didn't get the job done."
Hitting coach John Mabry, however, said he sees no cause for alarm.
"He got two hits today," Mabry said.
"Yeah, they're pitching everybody tough. It's the playoffs," Mabry said. "This is the staff that led the league in ERA. They pitch everybody tough.
"When you're facing the No. 1s and No. 2s on the best staff in the game, it's going to be tough sailing. They've got a lot of Cy Youngs over there.
"You keep grinding and try to take advantage of what they give you."
Adams said, "When you're in the playoffs, you're usually going to get the best staffs. That's not an excuse. I've just got to come up with a better approach and try to lay off the balls in the dirt."
At times in the last two months of the season, Adams had some issues with his right elbow, on which he had surgery last summer. But he said his elbow wasn't a problem now, and Mabry said he hadn't seen Adams' swing compromised.
The Dodgers, like other clubs, have shifted to have the shortstop play on the right-field side of second base and the second baseman to play in short right field when Adams is at bat. Adams has grounded hard into some outs against that type of defense, but he caught a break in the third inning when he beat out a broken-bat roller because second baseman Mark Ellis, who was playing in a different ZIP code, had to run so far to get it.
In the ninth, Adams hit a ball to right center, out of the reach of shortstop Nick Punto, who was near second base.
The shift leaves the left side of the infield open for Adams but he said, "That's what they want you to do. They want you to think about it and change your approach and change your swing.
"As long as I stick to what I feel comfortable with, we'll be fine."
Adams has been hitting fourth against righthanders in this series but, in all likelihood, he will be dropped to sixth again when lefthander Clayton Kershaw pitches for Los Angeles on Friday night and if Hyun-Jin Ryu gets a chance Saturday. Adams is one for six against that duo with three strikeouts.
Against Greinke, who worked seven strong innings for the Dodgers on Wednesday, Adams also is one for six.
The Cardinals had Greinke pinned against the ropes in both the first and third, but they got only two runs out of it, and then the 15-game winner set down the final 13 hitters he faced.
"If we get a couple of knocks in those situations, it changes the game completely," the 25-year-old Adams said.
"I would think that would give any pitcher momentum, getting out of a big jam like that. We had something rolling. We just didn't push the runs across.
"But what are you going to do about it now? You can't do anything about it now."
With Allen Craig out the last six weeks with a ligament sprain in his left foot, Adams has played almost every game at first base, missing only three of 34 starts.
"I'm learning a lot," he said. "I'm seeing the best staffs in baseball. It's making me a better player."
Asked if the Dodgers were pitching him differently than others, he said, "They're pitching me the same. If I keep chasing, they're going to keep pitching me down there. That's one thing I've got to get better on in Game 6 and Game 7."
Well, Game 6 anyway. Adams, like his teammates, would prefer that Game 7 come in some other series.
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