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ST. LOUIS (AP) Clutch hitting deserted the St. Louis Cardinals throughout the postseason. The power arms that got them to the World Series finally gave out, too.

For the third straight year there's satisfaction in the achievement of making a deep October run. They were close to a second title in three years, largely thanks to rookie Michael Wacha, and there's no reason they can't keep contending.

The way it ended, it felt as if they'd missed by a mile.

Going forward, it appears the NL champions have plenty of payroll flexibility. They haven't said whether they'll seek a contract extension with free-agent Carlos Beltran, who would like to stay.