ST. LOUIS – Two St. Louis Cardinals campaigns worth MVP consideration based on regular season achievements fell far from that standard in postseason.

Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado answered the bell, offensively and defensively, for much of the 2022 season. A tough two-game stretch from the corner infielders embodied the Cardinals’ collective struggles on offense in the Wild Card Series loss.

Goldschmidt and Arenado finished the series a combined 1-for-15 with one run scored and no RBIs. They stranded 12 runners on base between the two games and struck out six times. The Philadelphia Phillies held both MVP hopefuls hitless in Game 2 to advance to the National League Division Series and eliminate the Cardinals from postseason.

“I didn’t play well at all, that’s what I look at,” said Goldschmidt after a hitless two-game series. “We had a few chances, just weren’t able to score. Our pitching did a great job, just didn’t do enough [offensively] to win.”

“We thought we’re going to come out with a series win,” said Arenado. “We ran into [Phillies’ pitcher Aaron] Nola, and he pitched a great game, but it sucks to lose like that, especially when you have opportunities to get guys in.”

On two occasions in Game 2, in the sixth and eighth innings, the now-retired designated hitter Albert Pujols singled before the threat ended with back-to-back strikeouts of Goldschmidt and Arenado.

The series was unlike the norm for Goldshmidt and Arenado, two of just four players to end the 2022 regular season less than a week ago with at least a .290 batting average, 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. Prior to Saturday, pitchers only held the pair hitless 13 times in games both started this year. St. Louis went 5-8 in those games.

“Those guys carried us the entire year,” said Cardinals manager Oli Marmol. “They did a phenomenal job of not taking any at-bats off. Obviously the timing [of the cold stretch] wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t for lack of preparation. Those are ultra competitors, and they’re giving everything they have.”

Despite strong overall numbers, a cold stretch seemed to plague Arenado and Goldschmidt in the final weeks of regular season, even as the Cardinals closed in on clinching the National League Central. Arenado hit just .221 with 2 home runs and 14 RBIs from September on. Goldschmidt didn’t fare much better, with a .244 average, 2 home runs and 10 RBIs in the same stretch.

“The results speak for themselves,” said Goldschmidt. “I didn’t play good at all in September and October. It really stinks. It’s 100% on me. I couldn’t do my job, and it stinks. Obviously, I can’t change it. So I take that, have to go forward and try to do better next time.”

A learning experience might best describe this series, but it comes at an unlucky time. The careers of longtime Cardinals legends Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina come to an end with Saturday’s shutout loss.

“That was the hardest part, saying goodbye to those two guys,” said Arenado. “What they mean to this organization and what they mean to us individually. Albert, Yadi, those guys are legends, and it was such an honor to play for them. We wanted to [win a World Series] for them. We just couldn’t get it done.”

“That adds to it,” said Goldschmidt. “We wanted to try to make a run for them in playoffs, try to give them another championship. We came up short, so very unfortunate.”

From an offensive standpoint, the torch has been passed. Goldschmidt has two more years remaining on his current Cardinals contract. Arenado could potentially remain under team control through 2027, though he has the ability to opt-out of his current contract to either restructure his terms or test free agency.

When asked about his future late Saturday night, Arenado did not particularly mention the opt-out or contract situation, but offered this candid response.

“I love it here. I love the guys and I feel like I fit well with this organization. … I feel like I fit well here. I feel like the city appreciates me. I’ve really loved it here.”

The Cardinals have won just one postseason series since Goldschmidt joined the team, a first-round 2019 NLDS matchup with the Atlanta Braves. St. Louis has only won one postseason game in ten tries since then, none yet with Arenado in the fold.