Score and situation: The St. Louis Cardinals world championship defense continues after they rallied from a 6-0 deficit to defeat the Washington Nationals on Friday night. Washington put on an offensive clinic early on, scoring six of their runs in the first three innings, but the Cardinals simply refused to go away, chipping away one by one until breaking through against Drew Storen for four runs in the ninth to win it 9-7.
Leading lads: It's always somebody different for St. Louis. On Friday night, it was Daniel Descalso, who also homered in the eighth, coming through with a two-out, two-run single off the glove of Ian Desmond to tie the game in the final frame. Rookie shortstop Pete Kozma followed with the biggest hit of his young career, driving in the winning tallies with a two-run single of his own.
Carlos Beltran was a big reason the Cardinals were able to battle all the way back. He reached base in all five of his plate appearances. Their bullpen, led by Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal, did a nice job too by holding Washington off the board from the fourth inning until the seventh. Jason Motte was the winner after pitching the final two innings.
The Cardinals comeback overshadows a big night for Bryce Harper, who erupted from his 1 for 18 slump with a first inning RBI triple and a third inning solo home run off Adam Wainwright. Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse each hit two-run homers for Washington.
Head hangers: Attempting to pitch for the third straight day, Drew Storen was unable to muster the effectiveness he needed to silence the Cardinals' bats in the ninth. He'll receive most of the attention, but it's important to remember Cy Young contender and 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez was the one handed a 6-0 lead, and he struggled to get through five innings. He ended up walking four and gave three of the runs back to St. Louis before Davey Johnson pulled the plug.
After missing out on the fun during the Cardinals championship run in 2011, this wasn't the defining outing Adam Wainwright was looking for. Wainwright had no answer for Washington's offensive attack, lasting 2 1/3 innings. He allowed six earned runs on three home runs, two doubles, one triple and one single. There were no cheapies in that bunch, but he'll have a chance to bounce back in the NLCS.
Key play: Without question, Daniel Descalso's game-tying single was the biggest moment in the game. Pete Kozma's game-winner is right behind it. But overall this was one championship team never losing confidence and simply refusing to give away at-bats or accept certain defeat. Just tip your cap to the Cardinals.
Interesting stat I: The Cardinals have now won six straight postseason games when facing elimination. According to Elias, they're the third team to accomplish that feat, and no team has won seven elimination games in a row.
Interesting stat II: Adam Wainwright is the first pitcher to allow three home runs in a winner-take-all game since Bob Gibson in back in the 1964 World Series. You probably won't be surprised to hear the Cardinals managed to win that game as well.
What they'll be talking about: There will be some second-guessing of both managers for sticking with their starters as long as they did. In Matheny's defense, Wainwright did rally to strike out the side in the first after falling down 3-0 in the first three batters. He looked good in the second inning, too, before things unraveled again in the third. I'm not sure I can think of a defense for Davey Johnson, though. He had a chance to pull Gonzalez with a 6-1 lead, and then watched two more important runs score on a wild pitch and bases loaded walk.
Also, the Cardinals are moving on to face the other National League team that refuses to die in postseason play, the San Francisco Giants. What, or who should I who, will give in that series?
What's next: Game 1 of the NLCS is scheduled for Sunday night at 8:07 ET in San Francisco. There's no official word on who will take the mound in the Game 1 for the Giants, but it appears Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong are the leading candidates. The Cardinals have already announced they'll be going with Lance Lynn.