Defending champs come back in 9th, defeat Nationals
The St. Louis Cardinals had everything going against them. First, they were down 6-0 after three innings of play against the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS. Then, after managing to chip away and get within one run, the Nationals tacked on an insurance run in the eighth to give Washington a two-run advantage. In the ninth inning, the Cards were down to their final strike multiple times.
Nonetheless, the Cardinals made history last night during a four-run ninth inning that gave St. Louis a 9-7 victory, and advanced the defending World Series champions to the National League Championship Series.
“I told you that when we came back,” said veteran Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter, “that it’s going to be the most epic [comeback] ever.”
The Cardinals’ joy at the end of the game belonged to the Nationals at the beginning as Washington knocked St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright out in 2 1/3 innings, the shortest start of Wainwright’s career. By the time Wainwright made his exit in the third, the Nats held what seemed like a dominating and insurmountable 6-0 lead.
“Miraculous,” Wainwright said after the game. “Today their starting pitcher gave them a whole lot of reasons why they should quit. And they didn’t.”
But, according to the Cardinals’ first-year manager Mike Matheny, the Cardinals never thought they were out of the game.
“They did not believe that six runs was too much,” Matheny said. “They didn’t stop believing. It wasn’t just a bunch of rah-rah stuff. It seemed like every inning, there was more and more momentum. It was just one of those things that you cannot describe.”
St. Louis started its slow comeback in the fourth inning. After Carlos Beltran walked to start off the fourth, Matt Holliday hit a double to left field that scored Beltran. While it was just one run, it inched the Cards a bit closer to their ultimate goal.
The fifth inning served the Cardinals even better as they scored two runs to cut the Nats lead in half. Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma, the heroes of the game, got the inning started with a line-drive double and a line-drive single, respectively. The next batter, Shane Robinson, then walked to load the bases. After an out on an infield fly, Beltran came up to bat. Before Beltran walked, Nats pitcher Gio Gonzalez threw a wild pitch allowing Descalso to score.
With the bases loaded, and two outs, Gonzalez walked in a run before putting an end to the inning.
After not scoring a run in the sixth, the Cards notched a run a piece in the seventh and eighth to come within one run. The Nats also put a run up on the board in the eighth, though, making it 7-5.
Then the Cardinals completed the biggest comeback in a win-or-go-home postseason game in baseball history.
Beltran started off the ninth with a double. The Nationals closer Drew Storen, however, responded well to the added pressure, retiring the next two batters.
Storen then got to the final strikes against Yadier Molina and David Freese, but both managed to walk, loading the bases.
“You just have to battle against that guy,” Freese said. “The thing about the postseason is, if you’re unfazed, you have a shot.”
Descalso, who ultimately went 3-for-5 with 3 RBI, took Storen’s first pitch and lined it just over the glove of Nats shortstop Ian Desmond scoring two runs. Suddenly, the game was tied.
“I was on first base, all fired up, and I looked over at the dugout and the guys were going crazy, and [that] got [me] fired up even more out there,” Descalso said.
Then it was up to Kozma, a middle infielder who was nearly released from the Cardinals minor league system this year. Kozma gave the Cardinals a two-run lead, their first lead of the night, on a single into right.
“It helped that Descalso got that hit,” Kozma said. “That took the edge off a little bit, though it wasn’t near enough. I still had to bear down and try to take myself out of the moment and take the crowd out of it.”
The Cardinals will now move on to the NLCS and face off against the San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, the Nationals, who won the most games in the Majors with 98, will have to watch from home.
“I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth that’s going to stay there for a couple months,” Storen said. “It’s probably never going to leave.”