Six is storied number for the St. Louis Cardinals. The retired number of the greatest Cardinal Stan Musial, of course. A serious number, as we all know from the commercials. And October Games Sixes are pretty special as well.
Yes, “Game Six” immediately calls to mind the 2011 World Series — rightly so, as it’s one of the best World Series games in history with the majestic ninth and 10th inning comebacks and walk-off “we will see you tomorrow night!” 11th-inning moment.
But we can’t forget Game Six of the 1985 NLCS — against the Dodgers, no less — was another classic thanks to a ninth-inning game-winning pennant-clinching home run from Jack Clark. Or Jim Edmonds and his 12th-inning walk-off homer in 2004’s NLCS Game Six against the Astros.
Now we have another classic Game Six victory to remember fondly — and no home runs were necessary.
Instead it was just two innings of hit after hit and run after run off the sure-to-be-2013 National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, as he allowed 10 of the Cardinals 13 hits and 7 of the 9 runs. And it was a masterful performance yet again from Michael Wacha, allowing just 2 hits to the Dodgers on his way to being named NLCS MVP.
Let’s take a look at the good, better and best of this pennant-clinching masterpiece.
Cards turn first-inning double play: So what if Carl Crawford led off the game with an infield single? Michael Wacha got Mark Ellis to ground it to David Freese, who threw to Matt Carpenter for one out then completed the double play by throwing to Matt Adams. The Dodgers wouldn’t have another baserunner until Crawford walked to start the fourth, with their only other hit coming when A.J. Ellis led off the sixth with a double.
Yadier Molina: Obviously the Cardinals hit more in Game Six than any other game, and Yadi was one of four Cards with two hits each. He was in the middle of the action in both the third and fifth innings, driving in Carlos Beltran with a single and leading off with a single.
Matt Adams: Also in the two-hit-one-RBI club last night, Matt walked in the third and drove in Yadi with a double in the fifth. He also singled in the sixth.
Michael Wacha’s bat: In the fifth, Michael was up for the second time with the bases loaded — and this time he drove in a run, the Cards’ sixth of the game. He also batted twice in the third inning, and it’s a good accomplishment to make both the first and third outs of an inning in an NLCS game — right? OK, at least it’s a rare accomplishment. And I think his pitching more than made up for his performances at the plate in the third …
Carlos Beltran: No surprise at all who had the Cardinals first hit — a first inning double — and drove in the first run with a single in the third to score Matt Carpenter. He also fittingly drove in the ninth run with a fifth inning single that scored Wacha. He was the only Card with three hits for the game, plus he also had the defensive play of the night with a fantastic diving catch in the fifth.
Shane Robinson: Mike Matheny chose to start Shane in center and he responded at the plate for sure, since he was right in the middle of the third and fifth inning action. He drove in Yadi and David Freese with his third inning single plus ended up at second following an adventurous throw by Yasiel Puig. Shane also singled in the second inning, then moved up to second base and then third on wild pitches from Clayton Kershaw. (Perhaps that was a big hint about the kind of night Kershaw would have.)
Carlos Martinez: Fifteen pitches total, including three that reached 100 mph. Three pitches to Puig, including two terrific curves for called strikes, for a strikeout. Three up, three down. How can we not just love him?
The standoff: Everyone (attention sports media) who kept repeating over and over again in print and online and on the air how the Cardinals are no fun had obviously never noticed Joe Kelly — even before last night’s post-National-Anthem standoff with Scott Van Slyke that didn’t end until home plate umpire Greg Gibson, with Wacha on the mound and having made his warm-up throws, ended the fun. Sure, the Dodgers got to celebrate after Van Slyke’s standoff “win” … but at least it gave them one bright spot for the evening.
Kershaw tested the Cardinals’ leadoff hitter with an assortment of his Cy Young award-winning pitches. Could he handle a 94 mph fastball? Carpenter fouled it off. A 75 mph curveball? Fouled off. An 86 mph slider? Fouled off. A 95 mph fastball? Fouled back. Carpenter fouled off a total of eight pitches to keep the at-bat alive and keep Kershaw’s pitch count growing. The Cardinals had already worked Kershaw for 33 pitches through two innings.
Carpenter turned on Kershaw’s 49th pitch of his game and pulled a double into right field.
The most unexpected of routs was on.
Carpenter called it “the biggest at-bat of my career, easy.”
“Game-changing at-bat,” Ellis said. “It wore (Kershaw) down.”
Michael Wacha: Two NLCS starts against Clayton Kershaw. A total of 13 2/3 scoreless inning. Seven hits allowed, with 13 strikeouts and with one walk in each game. Two victories — and an absolutely deserving NLCS MVP award. The trophy presentation brought a tear to my eye last night when I saw it live, and again right now. The kid is beyond amazing.
Trevor Rosenthal’s final pitch: Of course it was 100 mph. Of course it was for a strikeout. That’s a National League pennant winner — and let the celebration begin!
Carlos Beltran’s locker room speech: Finally, after 2,064 regular season games and playing Game Sevens of the 2004 and 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals, Carlos Beltran is at last going to the World Series. The team waited for him to begin celebrating in the locker room — and his speech to kick it all off was just fantastic.
Now we have a few days to relax and enjoy and relive the greatness of this Game Six, and the NLCS overall — as well as to see just who the Cardinals opponent will be in the World Series starting Wednesday night.
That could be determined as soon as tonight, when the Tigers and Red Sox play Game Six of the ALCS in Boston. I definitely would prefer a Tigers win tonight and tomorrow for a 2006 World Series rematch, but that’s just because I cannot even stand to look at the Sawx WACKY BEARDS. Many want the Sawx and the 2004 rematch (and I do think that’s what it’s probably going to be). We shall find out soon …
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.