St. Louis Cardinals Clinch NLCS Over Dodgers, Advance To World Series
Michael Wacha, National League Championship Series MVPPhoto: Image by KTTS News
Call them the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals!
The Cardinals won the National League pennant convincingly Friday night, shutting out the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-0 on only two hits in Game 6 of the NLCS at Busch Stadium.
Rookie pitcher Michael Wacha (2-0) came through yet again for St. Louis, pitching seven very strong innings to earn his second win of the series and garner honors as the MVP of the National League Championship Series.
The Cardinals offense erupted against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (0-2), scoring four runs in the third inning and five more in the fifth, and the 46,899 fans counted the final outs in a game that left little suspense.
The first of two big innings started innocently enough as Wacha grounded out to open the bottom of the third. Matt Carpenter doubled in a 13 pitch at-bat, and Carlos Beltran's RBI single scored the first run of the night.
Catcher Yadier Molina singled in a run to make it 2-0, and Shane Robinson, getting the start in centerfield, singled in two with the bases loaded to give St. Louis a 4-0 advantage.
The Cards banged out another five runs on four hits in the fifth, chasing Kershaw from the game. Beltran drove in a run with a base hit in the inning, and Matt Adams had an RBI double.
Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal came out of the bullpen to finish off the win for Wacha, working one-two-three innings in the eighth and ninth.
Wacha says these past four games, including three in the postseason, represent the best stretch of his brief career. "I just try to come up to the park every day, get my work in, and try to approach every game just the same. Just try to not let the moment get too big on you kind of deal. I think a lot of the veteran guys kind of helped me be able to adjust to those kind of games."
The rookie admits to being nervous waiting around to get the game underway. "Anxiety is definitely there," Wacha said. "Whenever I showed up at the park today at 3:30, I was ready for the game to start. I hate sitting around waiting for it to start. I think you've just got to use your nerves. You've got to use the anxiety to your advantage and let that help you perform out there."
St. Louis Manager Mike Matheny was asked in the postgame press conference if it's reasonable to keep expecting these performances by Wacha. "I think we just don't talk about it much because we don't want it to change," Matheny said. "We want to see it a few more times, a couple at least. We just want him to think that this is normal and is expected. But in all honesty, if a guy has the ability to perform at that level, he's been able to perform at that level in this kind of environment, he shouldn't have another level of expectation for himself. He should expect that. That's where he is right now."
Matheny says winning is a tradition and an expectation in St. Louis, and it feels great to clinch again at home. "We start talking early on about the history and the championships, the great players who have been through here and people who have made their mark on this organization and in the game. So we take a lot of pride in trying to carry ourselves like a championship club."
Beltran, a 15 year veteran and one of the most accomplished postseason players in the history of the game, is headed for his first World Series at the age of 36. "You know what, for me, I'm very fortunate to be in this position, and thank God for the opportunity. Without Him, it couldn't happen."
The St. Louis Cardinals will open the 2013 World Series Wednesday night at either Boston or Detroit, then come back home for the third, fourth, and fifth games (if needed) beginning next Saturday.
The Cardinals have reached the World Series for the 19th time in franchise history, and Matheny is the first manager to go to the Fall Classic in his second season as a skipper since Ozzie Guillen in 2005 with the White Sox.
At age 22, Wacha is the second youngest NLCS MVP winner.
Beltran reached 30 career postseason extra base hits with his double in the first inning, becoming just the third player in National League history to reach that plateau, joining Albert Pujols and Chipper Jones.
The Cardinals are the first team in MLB history to have four rookies (Martinez, Rosenthal, Seth Maness, and Kevin Siegrist) make four plus appearances out of the bullpen in one postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.