WASHINGTON, D.C. – The World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, a team that scoffs at regular seasons and yawns as large deficits, pulled off their latest miracle it to beat the Cinderella Nats make it to the NLCS. The Cards were down six runs at one point, and eventually they were down to their last strike, before staging their latest comeback and reaching yet another NLCS.
The Cardinals join three traditional powers - the Yankees, Giants and Tigers – in an interesting final four after a pair of two-out ninth-inning hits, one by Daniel Descalso and the game-winner by Pete Kozma, sent the Cardinals to the next round with a 9-7 victory that spoiled the Nats bid to win the first playoff series in this town in 79 years.
|More playoff coverage|
The crowd was poised to celebrate when disaster struck. Three hits and two walks in a ninth-inning rally scored four runs and won the game for St. Louis after Nationals closer Drew Storen had retired two of the first three batters he faced in the inning.
The Cardinals rallied from way back in last year's regular season, and again from behind in the World Series, to become champions. This time things looked pretty dire again. But they staged rally after rally, then stunned Storen after Washington had added an insurance run in the eighth inning.
The Cardinals improved to an astounding 6-0 in elimination games since the start of the 2011 postseason. If they don't seem quite as overwhelming a team without Albert Pujols, in some ways they are just as scary. Carlos Beltran, ostensibly Pujols' replacement, reached base all five times, including on a double to start the ninth inning.
After the Nats started the evening with a Jayson Werth double, a Harper triple and Ryan Zimmerman home run to make it 3-0, then made it 6-0 in the third, thanks to a Harper homer, the Cardinals owned the evening. A Zimmerman double and Michael Morse homer – made it 6-0 before the Cardinals made things interesting.