When October arrives and every game is more meaningful, some players shine brighter.
And those shining stars for the St. Louis Cardinals — Carlos Beltran, David Freese, Adam Wainwright — led the way to a 9-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game One of the National League Division Series.
It began in a wild and wonderful bottom of the third inning with, of all things, a walk to Wainwright by A.J. Burnett. (What’s the saying about leadoff walks?) Next was a single by Matt Carpenter to bring up Beltran.
And he simply “continued his postseason surge,” as Dick Stockton phrased it, launching a home run to the right field corner. See it again here, or just watch that gorgeous swing over and over again in super slow-mo in this gif at CBS Sports.
Yet the Cardinals were far from done in the inning.
Matt Holliday was up next and he doubled, followed by a hit-by-pitch to Matt Adams’ lower leg that had him sprawled across home plate. Next: a walk to Yadier Molina to load the bases. Six up, six reached, no outs, Jon Jay at the plate — and he too is walked to score Holliday. 4-0.
David Freese was the eighth man up, bases loaded, still no outs and, hey — it’s October now! So it was no surprise that Freese singled past Pirates first baseman Justin Morneau as both Adams and Yadi easily scored. Wait, Marlon Byrd’s throw in from right field ended up somewhere by the Cards dugout so Jay raced toward home and was safe — seven runs. No outs. Anyone else remember why they love Cardinals October baseball?
Perhaps not surprisingly, that was all for Burnett in the game. Jeanmar Gomez came in and retired the next three, including Wainwright and Carpenter for their second at-bats of the inning.
And, with Adam Wainwright pitching — and, of course, it being October — those seven runs were more than enough. Waino went seven innings and allowed just three hits, one being a Pedro Alvarez homer in the fifth, while striking out nine and (big surprise here) walking none. With the win, his October resume now boasts a 3-0 record and 2.27 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 39 2/3 postseason innings.
Carlos Martinez pitched the eighth and baseball fans now know who he is — although it had nothing to do with his pitching. No, instead everyone’s aware of what a fielder he is thanks to this unbelievable stop down the third base line and throw to Adams at first to get Russell Martin. Yadi’s reaction? Just about as great as the play itself! And good for Bob Brenly to admit he’d been ready to criticize Martinez for even attempting to field it.
After Martinez retired the next two he faced, Trevor Rosenthal got the Pirates in the ninth and allowed a two-out single to Andrew McCutchen before ending the game. A nice, easy way for Trevor to ease back into October baseball also — it was a year ago that baseball fans all found out about him and his 100 mph fastball as well.
Speaking of October and those stars shining brightly, with Freese’s two hits yesterday he’s now hitting .351 in October, with 40 hits in 114 at-bats. He has 27 RBI.
And then there’s Carlos Beltran.
His homer yesterday was his 15th in the postseason, tying him with Babe Ruth. Beltran also has the highest postseason slugging percentage in baseball history, with a minimum of 150 plate appearances — MLB Network showed a graphic last night with his .783 slugging percentage better than Babe Ruth’s .744 and Lou Gehrig’s .731. (Yes, they did point out on MLB Network as well that Carlos has had more postseason games also since the World Series was the only postseason play in Ruth and Gehrig’s days. Still, as they said, it’s Ruth and Gehrig he’s surpassed.)
Beltran’s postseason batting average is .357, as he’s 46 for 129, with the 15 homers and 28 RBI.
Can I remind you that October is just beginning?
Game two of the NLDS is just a few short hours away, as the Cards start at noon Central Time today. The Cardinals get their first look at the Pirates rookie sensation Gerrit Cole and, given the Cardinals offense overall, should make for an interesting afternoon. Lance Lynn starts for the Cardinals.
Finally, do you like the Aaron Miles’ Fastball Facebook page? We’re giving away a Burton History Trees Cardinals family tree, and it couldn’t be easier to enter. Check it out!