By Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES - There's something the St. Louis Cardinals can't stand about prosperity.

Oh, there are few teams better in the planet when playing elimination games, but when they have that fat lead, they play like fat cats.

And once again, given a chance to end this National League Championship Series, pulling the plug on the Los Angeles Dodgers' season, they decided to give them mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.


The Dodgers, with a 6-4 victory over the Cardinals, still trail the NLCS 3-2, with the series headed to St. Louis.

The Cardinals still are in fabulous shape.

Mmm, aren't they?

The trouble is that the Cardinals have been in this identical situation three times in the last 18 years.

The other two times didn't go so well.

In fact, if you want to be technical, they were utter disasters.

The Cardinals blew their 3-1 lead in 1996 against the Atlanta Braves, and then did the same last season against the San Francisco Giants.

Here's a stat that sends shivers down the spine of Cardinals Nation.

The Cardinals, after being up 3-1 in the NLCS, have now proceeded to lose seven in a row.

The combined score: 58-6.

That's not a baseball score.

That's Alabama vs. Chattanooga.

The Cardinals should have be popping champagne and partying in the Dodgers' house.

Instead, they are going home for Game 6 on Friday at Busch Stadium, with the daunting task of facing Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.

A well-rested Kershaw, who refuses to let the Dodgers' season expire under his watch.


Cardinals manager Mike Matheny certainly made his team aware of the need to close it out Wednesday, but somehow, the message got lost in the middle of the party favors.

Well, they've now got another game to learn from it.

And two chances to get it right.

The Cardinals, who still have ace Adam Wainwright in their back pocket for Game 7, will spend the plane ride home belaboring their squandered opportunities.

Twice, they had Cy Young winner Zack Greinke on the ropes.

Twice, Greinke came back swinging.

And twice, the Cardinals went down for the count.

The Cardinals had the bases loaded with nobody out in the first inning, and came away empty-handed.

They had runners on the corners in the third inning, and couldn't score again.

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was responsible for killing both rallies, grounding out into inning-ending double plays.

Somehow, he made four of the Cardinals' first nine outs.

Greinke, appreciative of the gesture, took it from there.

He proceeded to calmly retire the next 13 batters in a row.

And yes, just like that, we have a Game 6.

"We're all lined up," Dodgers infielder Nick Punto said. "The pressure is all on them now."

And if the Dodgers win Game 6?

"We get it to Game 7," said Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, "those things will creep in their heads over there."

Then again, the Dodgers have their own history.

Six times they've trailed 3-1 in a best-of-seven series.

Six times they went home.

Something has got to give.

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @BNightengale