Carlos Beltran's status as a postseason legend has long been cemented, but the St. Louis Cardinals right fielder clearly isn't resting on his laurels this October.
With the Los Angeles Dodgers threatening to steal Game 1 of the NLCS on Friday night, Beltran took the game over in extra innings, first by throwing out Mark Ellis at home to preserve a 10th inning tie on Michael Young's fly ball to medium right center, and then three innings later with a walk-off single down the right field line to give St. Louis a 3-2 victory.
The assist: The Dodgers threat came together quickly against Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal — who was working his second inning of relief — after center fielder Jon Jay misplayed Ellis' base hit into a triple. With Adrian Gonzalez out of the game after being substituted for a pinch-runner, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny elected to intentionally walk Hanley Ramirez. That put the pressure on Gonzalez's replacement, Young, and it appeared he'd done his job as the ball carried into the outfield.
Just not on Beltran's watch.
The 36-year-old veteran took charge of the play, calling off Jay in center to make the catch. Then he uncorked a perfect one hop throw to Yadier Molina, who with his usual gold glove grace, picked the ball clean, blocked the plate and got the tag on Ellis for the out.
Yes, there continues to be debate about the tag. The photo below seems to indicate it was applied, though several replay angles on TV never conclusively confirmed it. Regardless, it shouldn't take away from the incredible throw, which didn't only preserve the tie, but helped elevate a great Game 1 to an instant classic.
Sure looks like a tag here: pic.twitter.com/xCDAsHC9aO"
— Pedro Gomez (@pedrogomezESPN) October 12, 2013
The hit: The Cardinals had been kept off the scoreboard ever since, you guessed it, Beltran delivered a two-run double in the third. They mounted only marginal threats against Zack Greinke and others leading up to the 13th, but finally put some pressure on reliever Chris Withrow following a Daniel Descalso single and Matt Carpenter walk. That set the stage for Beltran, and finally forced Don Mattingly to call on closer Kenley Jansen.
On paper, it looked like a classic October matchup, but Beltran won the battle pretty easily. After keeping the bat on his shoulders and working the count to 3-1, he turned on an inside fastball and ripped it down the right field line to score the winner.
[Photos: Dodgers vs. Cardinals in NLCS]
A simple approach and a good swing leads to another highlight for Señor Octubre. But more importantly than that, it results in a 1-0 lead for St. Louis in the NLCS.