It is almost absurd to think that a team that won 105 games in the regular season could be so flawed. The St. Louis Cardinals, while being swept in the World Series by the Boston Red Sox, were made to appear mediocre. In a 3-0 loss in Game 4, St. Louis had its best starting pitching performance but was undone by an invisible offense.

In the last two games, the Cardinals managed just six hits against Boston starters Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe. Before the World Series, the Cardinals' lineup had drawn comparisons to its Boston counterpart. Both had led their leagues in runs scored and both contained a meaty middle portion with some of the most feared hitters in baseball.

The comparisons ended when the St. Louis lineup failed to produce, scoring just three runs combined in Games 2, 3, and 4. Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds and Reggie Sanders, the heart of the St. Louis lineup, combined to go 6 for 54 (.111) with one RBI. Rolen (0 for 15) and Sanders (0 for 9) were hitless.

"I performed offensively at a much lower standard," Rolen said. "You hope to come this far and put your best play on the field. [That] wasn't the case."

The Cardinals never led in this 100th World Series, and trailed for 28 consecutive innings after Game 1 was tied at 9 in the eighth.

They were one of four teams not to lead in a Series. The others were the 1963 Yankees, the 1966 Dodgers and 1989 Giants.

"They kept the pressure on us," Sanders said. "That was the key. I didn't think at any point we had the pressure on them."

Tony Womack led off the first inning with a single on Wednesday, one of only two innings when St. Louis had the leadoff man on base against Lowe. (Pujols led off the ninth with a single.) The Cardinals were so desperate for runs that Larry Walker, a three-time batting champion and former MVP, followed Womack's single with a bunt. It was the first sacrifice bunt for Walker since 1991. Womack was stranded when neither Pujols nor Rolen got the ball out of the infield.

"They played better," Edgar Renteria said. "That's why they are the world champions."

Pitching was clearly the Cardinals' weakness heading into the World Series. A rotation of Woody Williams, Matt Morris, Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis hardly provoked any anxiety for Boston. In four games those starters allowed 18 runs in 171/3 innings. Marquis was effective in Game 4, allowing just three runs in six innings, but he allowed a leadoff home run to Johnny Damon in the first inning that quickly deflated the crowd at Busch Stadium. Boston scored two more runs in the third inning when Trot Nixon, on a 3-0 count, doubled with the bases loaded.

Perhaps the Series turned as early as Game 1. With the bases loaded in a tie game in the eighth against Boston closer Keith Foulke, neither Rolen nor Edmonds could drive in a run.

"I have a couple of at-bats from Game 1 I haven't digested," Rolen said. "That was a big game."