SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Holliday looked like a man whose 2012 World Series dream had just died. His facial muscles tightened, his words were crisp.
And the St. Louis Cardinals outfielder whose slide into Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro became a flash point for the National League Championship Series didn't appear to like being asked if being eliminated from the playoffs was harder to take because his team held a 3-1 lead in games at one point.
"It sucks either way," Holliday said Monday night after a 9-0 loss to a Giants team that knocked the defending World Series champions out of the postseason. "I don't know if it's harder to take. I think everybody here obviously wishes it ended differently, but they had a great team. The Reds had them that way, too. They're better than us."
The Cardinals had ended their previous six elimination games with wide grins. But Monday night, the visiting team had nothing to smile about after being outscored 20-1 in three straight losses.
"I wasn't ready to go home," said Cardinals starting pitcher Kyle Lohse, who took the loss after a two-plus-inning stint that saw him charged with five runs. "It just felt like it was meant to be, that we were going to do some things, but we just ran out of gas."
Once again, Cardinals pitching was victimized by Giants second baseman Marco Scutawro, who went 3 for 4 to tie the LCS record of 14 hits and earn the award for series MVP.
So what made Scutaro such a challenge for Cardinals pitching?
"You want to get technical?" Lohse began. "He shorted up and he's not trying to do too much. Guys like that, for me, are the toughest out. You give me a guy that's swinging for the fences, and I'll get him out every time. A guy who's not afraid to shoot the ball to right, he's just a tough out."
But it wasn't just Scutaro as the Cardinals had no trouble acknowledging that the Giants were the better team over the past seven games.
"It's incredibly frustrating because we were one win away from going back to the World Series, but you also have to look at how they played," said Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig, who hit only .125 against San Francisco pitching. "They played very well. Their starting pitching was very good, and they got big hits. We didn't."
In some ways, the decisive victories by San Francisco might have made it easier for the Cardinals to deal with the series.
"We took this as far as we could. It would have been great if we went to the World Series, but we should feel proud of ourselves," outfielder Carlos Beltran said. "We didn't want to go out there and not score, but you've got to give credit to them."
And did it make it any tougher for Beltran to lose to a Giants team he played for a year ago?
"No looking back," he said.