Beltran leads Cards past Dodgers to World Series
ST. LOUIS -- Carlos Beltran woke up Friday morning with positive thoughts.
"I had a feeling we would do it," the St. Louis Cardinals' right fielder said.
And in October, when Beltran feels it, it usually happens.
Sparking a previously dormant offense with three hits and two RBIs, one of the greatest postseason performers of the last 10 years is headed to his first World Series after St. Louis' 9-0 stomping of the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched a 4-2 National League Championship Series win Friday.
There were other marquee performers for the Cardinals, which will start their 19th World Series Wednesday night at either Boston or Detroit.
Rookie right-hander Michael Wacha worked a two-hitter over seven innings for his second series win against Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw, becoming the youngest winner of the NLCS MVP since Atlanta's Steve Avery in 1991.
First-time playoff starter Shane Robinson contributed two hits, including a clutch two-run single to cap a four-run third inning uprising which gave St. Louis control before a wild sellout crowd of 46,899.
But on a night when everything went right for the guys with the birds on the bat, it was Beltran who set the tone. He started the scoring with an RBI single off Kershaw in the third and finished a five-run fifth with a run-scoring single against J.P. Howell.
And in a flashback to his younger days as a three-time Gold Glove winner, Beltran robbed Juan Uribe of extra bases in the fifth inning with a running backhand catch in deep right-center field.
"I'm happy," Beltran said as champagne and beer flew around the Cardinals' clubhouse. "This is worth celebrating."
Meanwhile, the Dodgers went down meekly after swashbuckling their way to a runaway NL West title and an NLDS win over Atlanta. They managed only two hits and were shaky defensively, getting two errors from flamboyant rookie right fielder Yasiel Puig and making a handful of other mistakes which gave St. Louis free bases it didn't need.
"It's disappointing for all of us," Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly said. "Going through spring, the long season, and then it just comes to a crash."
The wheels came off the road in the third. With one out, Matt Carpenter doubled on the 11th pitch of his at-bat against Kershaw and came home on Beltran's hit. One out later, Yadier Molina singled Beltran home for a 2-0 lead.
After David Freese singled and Matt Adams walked to fill the bases, Robinson grounded his hit past diving second baseman Mark Ellis to double the advantage. It took Kershaw 48 pitches to work out of the inning.
"The kind of pitcher that we were able to beat tonight, it's just impressive," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
With Wacha working fast and alternating his 97-mph fastball with a confounding changeup, the Dodgers had little hope of rallying. He retired 12 of the last 13 men he faced, wrapping up in style with a three-pitch strikeout of Andre Ethier to end the seventh.
In his last 29 2/3 innings, dating back to his last regular season start Sept. 24 against Washington, Wacha has allowed just nine hits and one run.
"I was able to just go out there and try to fill up the zone and try not to walk anybody," Wacha said. "Just try to not let the moment get too big on you."
St. Louis knocked out Kershaw in the fifth as Adams laced an RBI double down the left field line for a 5-0 lead. Kershaw allowed 10 hits and seven runs over four-plus innings in his fifth straight defeat to the Cardinals, dating back to last July.
The game's remainder was a race to the last out as a cold autumn rain started to intensify. By then, Beltran was on the bench, perhaps reflecting on a 15-year career which has included 16 postseason homers, including eight in 2004.
And finally, a trip to the World Series.
"He's out there running balls down, diving, knocks guys in," Wacha said. "I mean, it's fun to have him on our team."
NOTES: Former St. Louis SS Ozzie Smith threw out the first pitch. A Hall of Famer, Smith belted a rare homer in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS against Los Angeles to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. ... 1B Adrian Gonzalez's two homers in Game 5 of this year's NLCS represented the 10th time in Dodgers history they got a multi-homer game. ... St. Louis entered the game batting just .178 in the NLCS as opposed to .234 for Los Angeles. Both teams finished the series hitting exactly .211.