St. Louis Another round of playoffs is giving Scott Rolen a chance to get his timing back.
The St. Louis Cardinals advanced to the NL championship series for the third time in five years, dispatching the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games in the opening round.
They did it without much of a contribution from their top RBI man.
Rolen drove in 124 runs and batted .358 with runners in scoring position, second-best in the NL. But he has been injured much of the final month and is still trying to get his timing back.
He was hitless in 12 at-bats in the division series, settling for six walks.
Several times during the first round, manager Tony La Russa said Rolen wasn't completely healthy but was "playable." And defense at third base has been a constant for the five-time Gold Glove winner.
"I'm not real worried about what the stats say or don't say," Rolen said. "I didn't get a hit the whole series, but we're in here popping champagne, and that's all that matters."
The best-of-seven NLCS begins Wednesday night in St. Louis. The Cardinals will play Houston.
Rolen was sidelined for 16 games with a strained left calf muscle sustained Sept. 10 legging out a double right after fouling a pitch off his shin. He's in a 3-for-29 slump overall with one home run since returning.
This after batting a career-best .314, his first .300 season. He has driven in 100 or more runs five times in eight major-league seasons and was the leading vote-getter on the National League All-Star ballot.
Teammates expect more of a typical contribution in the NLCS.
"I think he's a little bit off," Albert Pujols said. "But he's a strong guy, and he knows that he's going to get his hits.
"I'm pretty sure he's going to come around. He's the best third baseman in the league, and I know he's going to come up big when we need it."
The Cardinals haven't made it to the World Series since 1987 and haven't been champions since 1982.
"Everybody was worried about us being a little flat, but we weren't flat," Rolen said. "We played well in this series."
The Cardinals were 8-10 against the Astros.