ATLANTA — The Cardinals had qualified for 13 National League Championship Series before Wednesday night. And then they scored 13 runs, a postseason record 10 of them in the first inning, as they punched their ticket for a 14th LCS by dismantling the Atlanta Braves 13-1 to win the decisive fifth game in the National League Division Series.
The best-of-seven NLCS will start just after 7 p.m. Friday at Busch Stadium against the Washington Nationals
The Cardinals did something in the first inning that they hadn’t done last week in seven innings against Atlanta starter Mike Foltynewicz. They scored. And scored. And scored some more against the slider-throwing Foltynewicz and his relief as Tommy Edman, Dexter Fowler and Kolten Wong all delivered two-run doubles.
Foltynewicz had set down 20 of 24 men he faced last week. He retired only one of eight in Game 5 as the Cardinals parlayed five hits, four walks, a wild pitch and an error as they charged to their historic lead in what had been a highly competitive series. Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty had more than enough support.
“It wasn't how we drew it up, I know that,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “That thing just kept rolling and we couldn't stop it. You talk about scenarios in the game. You don’t cover that one.”
Against a pitcher other than Flaherty, the Braves might have thought they at least would have some chance to come back. But Snitker said, “A guy like that, once he gets going and gets in his groove, it's almost insurmountable.”
In this age of home runs and strikeouts, the Cardinals scored 10 runs in an inning without a home run.
"It's hard to score 10 runs in an inning with hitting a home run," said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt. "But just great at-bats, relentless."
As the inning--and the game--and the game rolled on, Shildt said his feeling and that of his players was "never enough runs. Just keep eating, boys, keep going, which we did. I love the fact we added on after that."
Flaherty fanned eight in six innings and Shildt said Flaherty lobbed for the sixth after having to pitch out of a bases-loaded spot in the fifth. Shildt said he could have pulled Flaherty, saving him for perhaps earlier work the next series. But Shildt said, "You don't want to sit there and take it lightly. You want to make sure you bring it home. Hard to start managing for the next series before you win this one."
The Cardinals captured their 11th division series out of the 14 they have played. They are 7-6 in previous league championship series.
This marked the fourth time the Cardinals had ended Atlanta’s season here in postseason play. They swept the Braves in three games in the NLCS in 1982 and again in 2000. They won the first wild-card game here in 2012.
The Braves’ only retaliation came in 1996 when they walloped the Cardinals 15-0 in Game 7 of the NLCS, scoring six runs in the first inning. Somewhere Donovan Osborne is smiling. He started that game for the Cardinals.
This was the third different stadium in which the Cardinals had eliminated the Braves—Fulton County Stadium (1982), Turner Field (2000 and 2012) and SunTrust Park.
Atlanta hasn’t won a playoff series in 18 years, since beating Houston in the division series in 2001. Since then, the Braves have lost 10 consecutive playoff rounds.
And they were using the Tomahawk Chop--there were no tomahawks in evidence Wednesday--on all of those occasions.
FIVE WILL GET YOU 10
The SunTrust Park crowd, sans the trademark foam tomahawks because Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley, a Cherokee, had taken offense to their usage last week, didn’t exactly know how to behave. And Foltynewicz was gone after eight batters, only one of which he retired and that was on a sacrifice bunt.
Leadoff man Dexter Fowler, after barely tipping a two-strike pitch to stay alive, worked a walk. Kolten Wong sacrificed and Paul Goldschmidt, hitting .471 for the series at that point, grounded a ball to the right of shortstop Dansby Swanson, who made a diving stop but had no play elsewhere.
Marcell Ozuna, raising his series average to .500 as he hit safely for the fifth consecutive game, poked an 0-2 pitch into right field for a single and the first run. The Braves had a chance to escape the inning when Yadier Molina grounded to Gold Glove first baseman Freddie Freeman but Freeman muffed the hop. Not only did Freeman not get two outs on what should have been a double play, he got none.
In theory, if Freeman makes that play, nothing else happens and it's only a one-run inning.
"Yeah, but it wasn't," said Snitker, "so I'm not going to go belabor that, quite honestly."
Molina was safe, loading the bases, which remained loaded when Matt Carpenter walked, forcing in the second run. There would follow a string of two-run doubles.
The first was by Tommy Edman down the right-field line. That brought up Paul DeJong, who was walked intentionally by Foltynewicz as his final act. Lefthander Max Fried’s first act was to walk pitcher Jack Flaherty, forcing in another run to make it 5-0.
Flaherty was the first Cardinals pitcher to draw a bases loaded walk in the postseason since Bob Gibson in Game 4 of the 1968 World Series
Two-run doubles by Fowler and Wong quickly made it 9-0 and Wong scored the final run on a wild pitch as Ozuna struck out.
Catcher Brian McCann, who chased after the ball on that strikeout, slipped after he got to it and then threw wildly at first but Ozuna did not advance.
Molina then hit another infield grounder but the Braves fielded this one.
The 10-run burst in the first is a postseason record for that inning and tied for the most in any inning. And it’s the most in a first inning by the Cardinals since they got 11 against San Diego on May 8, 2005.
Before Wednesday, the biggest first inning in postseason history was seven runs by the Milwaukee Braves against the New York Yankees in the first inning of Game 2 in the 1958 World Series.
The most runs the Cardinals had scored in any previous playoff inning was nine, which they got in the second inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series in 1985 on the night when catalyst Vince Coleman was run over by a runaway tarpaulin before the game.
The Detroit Tigers had 10 runs in the third inning of World Series Game 6 against the Cardinals--on this day-- in 1968 in a 13-1 win that kept the World Series alive for the Tigers to win it the next day at Busch II. Also, the 1929 Philadelphia Athletics and 2002 Anaheim Angels had 10 runs in a postseason inning.
DEJONG JOINS THE FUN
DeJong, who had had only two hits in the first four games of the series, doubled home a run in the second and singled home another in a two-run third as the Cardinals ran the count to 13-0.
Edman had tripled ahead of DeJong in the second and a dropped throw by second baseman Ozzie Albies helped the Cardinals in the third. DeJong's double was the Cardinals' 16th of the NLDS, setting another record.
Josh Donaldson homered over the center-field wall for the Braves’ first run off Flaherty in the fourth. “We won this inning,” chortled one Braves fan in the stands.
FLAHERTY HITS ACUNA JR.
The fans got to do a little pantomime chopping, urged on by the scoreboard music, when the Braves loaded the bases in the fifth. Atlanta didn’t score as Freeman grounded to second baseman Wong, who was playing virtually in right field. But there had been some excitement when Flaherty drilled Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr., in the left shoulder.
Acuna Jr., had irritated the Cardinals, mostly reliever Carlos Martinez, with his actions earlier in the series. And Acuna, who had catcher Molina and home-plate umpire Tom Hallion as escorts on his trip to first base, pointed at Flaherty and yelled something on his way down the line.
Hallion issued warnings to both clubs that further such actions by a pitcher would result in ejections. Flaherty would come out of the game anyway after six innings, having struck out eight while throwing 104 pitches.
BY THE NUMBERS:
CARDS’ 1ST INNING
• 10 runs
• 5 hits (all with runners in scoring position)
• 4 walks
• 1 reached on error
• 1 safe at first on wild-pitch strikeout
• 14 batters total
• 26 minutes at bat
SHILDT SLEPT 'LIKE A BABY'
Though Wednesday evening's Game 5 of the National League Division Series probably is the biggest game of his career, to date, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, asked how he slept Tuesday night, responded, “Like a baby. How did you sleep?
"Had a nice meal, nice air-conditioned room, dark — and out like a light.
“The fact of the matter is if you're sitting there tossing and turning, figuring out (things) at 2 in the morning, you probably haven't done your preparation other times," said Shildt.
"We trust our preparation. It allows us to stay calm and just play the game and be ready for a lot of scenarios.”
DUVALL GOES INTO LINEUP
Adam Duvall has done enough damage against the Cardinals batting only once or twice a game, so Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker is going to give Duvall more chances.
The righthanded-hitting Duvall, who hit a key two-run pinch homer off Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty in Game 2 of the series, will play left field and hit sixth, replacing lefthanded-hitting Matt Joyce, who does his best work as a pinch hitter anyway. So far, Duvall is three for seven with five runs batted in over the first four games.
The Cardinals will employ the same lineup they’ve had for the past two games, with Harrison Bader not starting, Tommy Edman in right field, Dexter Fowler in center and Matt Carpenter at third. Paul DeJong will continue to bat eighth as the Cardinals try to break through against Mike Foltynewicz, who blanked them for seven innings in the Braves’ Game 2 win.
“It's a lineup we've run out there and a lineup we're comfortable with and competed well with,” Shildt said. “So that's what we're going with.”
One scenario should the Cardinals advance is a potential return of Michael Wacha to the roster for a succeeding round. Wacha, who has been out with a shoulder strain, threw a “very highly intensive bullpen today,” said Shildt. “He recovered well from his lighter bullpen two days ago and is in a good spot moving forward.”
1. Dexter Fowler cf
2. Kolten Wong 2b
3. Paul Goldschmidt 1b
4. Marcell Ozuna lf
5. Yadier Molina c
6. Matt Carpenter 3b
7. Tommy Edman rf
8. Paul DeJong ss
9. Jack Flaherty p
1. Ronald Acuna Jr. cf
2. Ozzie Albies 2b
3. Freddie Freeman 1b
4. Josh Donaldson 3b
5. Nick Markakis rf
6. Adam Duvall lf
7. Brian McCann c
8. Dansby Swanson ss
9. Mike Foltynewicz p