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Cards Put a 10-Spot on the Braves in First Inning to Cruise to the NLCS in a 13-1 Game 5 Win

MLB: NLDS-St. Louis Cardinals at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Well that escalated quickly. Tell it true, how many of you were expecting another pitcher’s duel between Jack Flaherty and Mike Foltynewicz with Game 5 of the NLDS going down to the wire? Even if you didn’t expect that, there was no way to anticipate the onslaught the Cardinals unleashed in the top of the first inning in Sun Trust Stadium this afternoon. Fourteen plate appearances, 10 runs, 4 walks (2 with the bases loaded), 5 hits, 3 doubles, a sacrifice and a fielding error. It is a good thing I have DVR, because the action piled up so quickly it was hard to keep up with the notes I had to keep to write this recap. Spoiler alert: The Cards crushed the Braves to reach their first NLCS since 2014. There’s one more playoff game being played right now to determine our opponent in the NLCS and to decide whether the Cards will have home field advantage in that series, so let’s get right to it.

Dexter Fowler came perilously close to striking out on a 1-2 low slider to lead off the top of the 1st, but he fouled it off and catcher Brian McCann failed to hold on. This would turn out to be very important. Fowler ended up taking the next 3 pitches (2 sliders low and a fastbal outside) to work a 3-2 walk, and Kolten Wong surprisingly sacrificed him to 2nd base on the first pitch. Paul Goldschmidt sharply grounded an 0-1 up-and-in fastball to the hole on the left side. Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson made a nice diving play to stop the ball. He thought about trying to throw to third to get Fowler, but couldn’t get the ball out of his glove, and really had no play anywhere, with Goldschmidt reaching on an infield single. With runners at the corners and 1 out, Marcell Ozuna went down and poked an 0-2 low-and-away slider for an opposite-field base hit to right to score Fowler, put the Cards on the board 1-0 and move Goldschmidt to 2nd base. The pitch was not bad, as it was out of the zone, but it didn’t have the bite Folty’s slider usually has.

Yadier Molina sharply grounded an 0-1 outside fastball to Freddie Freeman at 1st base that could have been an inning-ending double play. But Freeman booted it, with the ball going off of his glove and to his right. Everyone was safe as a result of the fielding error and the bases were loaded for Matt Carpenter. Carpenter took an inside slider for a 3-2 walk to score Goldschmidt and give the Cards a 2-0 lead. After the home plate umpire called an outside fastball a strike, Foltynewicz left a changeup right over the middle to Tommy Edman. Edman sharply grounded it right down the first base line just inside it and off the sidewall for a double. Both Ozuna and Molina scored to give the Cards a 4-0 lead, with Carpenter moving to 3rd base.

After the Braves intentionally walked Paul DeJong to get to Jack Flaherty, manager Brian Snitker pulled Foltynewicz in favor of lefty Max Fried. Fried walked Flaherty on 5 pitches to score Carpenter and give the Cards a 5-0 lead. The Cards did get a break on that one, as Fried’s first-pitch low fastball should have been called a strike. Fowler sharply grounded a 1-0 inside fastball just inside the 3rd base line and off the sidewall for a double. Edman and DeJong scored to give the Cards a 7-0 lead with Flaherty moving to 3rd. Wong laced a first-pitch inside fastball to the gap in left-center that rolled all the way to the wall for another double to score Flaherty and Fowler and extend the Cards’ lead to 9-0. Goldschmidt lined an inside fastball toward the line in right field, but Nick Markakis made a running catch for the second out. Wong tagged up and advanced to 3rd base. Ozuna struck out swinging at a 1-2 curveball in the dirt, but the ball bounced, hit McCann near the chest and scooted all the way to the backstop. Ozuna didn’t even run at first until Molina, who was on-deck, yelled for him to do so. Once he did, as McCann raced back to get the ball, McCann slipped and fell once he secured the ball. He tried to throw to 1st from his backside and his throw was wide of 1st base, with Ozuna making it to 1st safely. Wong scored on the strikeout and wild pitch to give the Cards a 10-0 lead. Molina grounded out toward the line at 3rd base to finally end the inning. This was a record for runs scored in a first inning in the history of the postseason. It also tied a record for runs scored in any postseason inning.

Mike Shildt immediately made some defensive changes for the bottom of the 1st, putting Harrison Bader in Carpenter’s #6 spot to play CF, with Fowler moving from CF to RF and Edman moving from RF to 3B. Ronald Acuna worked a 3-2 walk with ball 4 looking like a fastball for a strike at the top of the zone. Ozzie Albies flied an outside slider to left field for the first out. Freeman softly lined an up-and-in fastball for a base hit to move Acuna to 2nd base. Josh Donaldson struck out looking at a 2-2 fastball right down the middle. Nick Markakis sharply grounded out to Flaherty at the mound to end the inning.

After Harrison Bader lined a shot right to Donaldson at 3rd base for the first out of the top of the 2nd, Edman skied a high-and-outside fastball that carried and bounced off the right field wall for a triple. Markakis just missed the ball on the jump, with the ball just eluding his glove to the side. DeJong smoked an outside fastball off the right field wall for a double to score Edman and give the Cards an 11-0 lead. Flaherty struck out looking at a looping curveball right down the middle. Fowler popped a high-and-outside curveball to right in foul territory that Markakis had to make a running catch to grab for the 3rd out. Flaherty retired the Braves in order in the bottom of the 2nd with 1 strikeout.

Righty Luke Jackson came out to pitch the top of the 3rd. Wong worked a 3-2 walk to lead things off. After Goldschmidt struck out swinging at a low 2-2 slider, Jackson hit Ozuna on the left elbow with a first-pitch fastball. Molina grounded to short for what should have been a double play ball, but Albies dropped Swanson’s throw to short. Ozuna was ruled safe at second base, although it appeared that Albies had the ball with his foot on the base, and only dropped it when he took his foot off the base and tried to make the exchange of the ball to his free hand. The Braves challenged the call, but the ruling of fielder’s choice, E4 was upheld and the bases were loaded for Bader. Bader lined a low-and-in 2-2 hanging slider to center for a base hit to score Wong and extend the Cards’ lead to 12-0. Edman struck out swinging at a 3-2 low-and-in slider. DeJong lined a first-pitch hanging slider through the hole to left to score Ozuna and give the Cards a 13-0 lead. Snitker brought in righty Josh Tomlin to pitch to Flaherty. This is Flaherty’s 3rd plate appearance that comes before the Braves’ pitcher’s spot has come up once. Flaherty sharply grounded out to short to end the inning. Jack then retired the Braves in order in the bottom of the 3rd with 2 strikeouts.

With 1 out in the top of the 4th, Wong sliced an outside cutter to left-center for a base hit. Goldschmidt grounded an outside cutter through the hole to left for a base hit to move Wong to 2nd base. Ozuna squibbed a low-and-away curveball off the end of his bat towards the middle. Albies stepped on the 2nd base bag and fired to 1st for an inning-ending 4-3 double play, and this is the first inning that the Cards have not scored. With 1 out in the bottom of the 4th, Donaldson laced a low-and-away slider over the center field wall for a solo HR to end the shutout and cut the Cards’ lead to 13-1. Flaherty retired the rest of the side in order with 2 total strikeouts in the inning.

Tomlin retired the Cards in order in the top of the 5th with 1 strikeout. McCann sharply grounded a 3-2 center-cut fastball through the right side for a base hit to lead off the bottom of the 5th. Swanson flied out to the track in right. Rafael Ortega pinch hit for Tomlin and struck out swinging at a low slider out of the zone. Flaherty then hit Acuna right in the middle of the back with a 1-2 fastball. Acuna chirped a bit as he was walking to first base. Home plate umpire Tom Hallion warned both sides, which could lead to the ejection of both the pitcher and the manager if anyone else is hit. This seems a little excessive, as there’s no reason to believe that Flaherty was trying to hit Acuna with a 1-2 pitch. Albies ripped an outside fastball to right for a base hit to load the bases. Freeman worked the count to 3-0. Flaherty threw a low fastball that arguably should have been called ball 4, as it looked like it was a few inches low of the zone. But Hallion called it a strike, and then Freeman grounded a sinker to 2nd for the 4-6 force to end the inning.

Lefty Sean Newcomb came out to pitch the top of the 6th. I was surprised that with Flaherty laboring a bit at 94 pitches after the last half-inning that Shildt had him hit for himself in the inning. In any case, Newcomb retired the side in order with strikeouts of DeJong and Flaherty and a groundout by Fowler. Flaherty came back out for the bottom of the 6th and retired the side in order with 1 strikeout on 10 total pitches. You would think that would have to be it for Jack. Newcomb retired the Cards in order in the top of the 7th that featured a good play by Swanson deep in the hole on Goldschmidt’s grounder and a good pick by Freeman on the throw in the dirt, together with a strikeout of Ozuna. Giovanny Gallegos came out for the bottom of the 7th and retired the Braves in order on a popout and 2 groundouts.

With Newcomb having been pinch hit for in the last half-inning, righty Darren O’Day came out to pitch the top of the 8th and retired the Cards in order with 2 strikeouts. John Brebbia came out for the bottom of the 8th. With 2 out in the inning, Freeman drove a hanging slider off of the right field wall for a double. But Donaldson stranded him there to end the inning with a fly ball to right. Julio Teheran came out to pitch the top of the 9th. After DeJong struck out looking, Randy Arozarena pinch hit for Brebbia and struck out. Fowler flied out to center to end the inning.

For the bottom of the 9th, Arozarena stayed in the game in the #9 spot to play RF with Genesis Cabrera coming out to pitch in the #1 spot. Markakis grounded a center-cut fastball to short for the 1st out. Adam Duvall flied a high fastball to the track in right-center to Arozarena for the 2nd out. Tyler Flowers pinch hit for McCann and softly lined a low-and-away changeup down the left field line for a base hit. Swanson struck out swinging at a 2-2 low-and-away changeup to end the game.

The Cards advance to the NLCS for the first time since 2014. Our opponent is unknown at the time and depends on the winner of Game 5 between the Dodgers and Nationals this evening. If the Dodgers win, that club will have home field advantage due to their better regular season record. Although the Nationals had a better regular season record than the Cardinals, the Major League Rules provide that the Wild Card club may not get home field advantage until the World Series. Thus, if the Nationals win, the Cards will have home field advantage in the NLCS.

Odds and Ends

Daniel Ponce de Leon and Yairo Munoz were the only Cardinal players not to see any action in the 2019 NLDS. Genesis Cabrera did not pitch until the bottom of the 9th of Game 5. The Atlanta Braves used everyone on their roster, and technically used 26 players. Reliever Chris Martin was credited with an appearance even though he did not throw a pitch. Martin’s mid-series injury replacement, Julio Teheran, pitched 2 games. Braves’ catcher Brian McCann announced his retirement after the game, ending a 15-year career.

There were multiple milestones hit tonight for the Cards in addition to the ones I discussed earlier about the most runs scored in a postseason inning. Yadier Molina just played his 94th playoff game, which is the most by any National League player. Jack Flaherty’s 16 strikeouts is the most by any Cardinal pitcher in the NLDS. The 13-1 victory tied the Cardinals’ record for largest margin of victory in a playoff game with the 13-1 Game 6 win in the 1982 World Series over the Milwaukee Brewers. Rookie John Stuper pitched a complete game despite over 3 hours worth of rainouts.

Offensive Tale of the Tape

Fowler: 24 PA, 2-22, 2 BB, 4 SO, 3 RBI, .091/.167/.136

Wong: 23 PA, 5-20, 3 2B, SH, 2 BB, 6 SO, 4 RBI, .250/.318/.400

Edman: 21 PA, 6-19, 3 2B, 3B, 2 BB, 2 SO, 2 RBI, .316/.381/.579

Goldschmidt: 23 PA, 9-21, 4 2B, 2 HR, 2 BB, 3 SO, 2 RBI, .429/.478/.905

Ozuna: 23 PA, 9-21, 3 2B, 2 HR, BB, 5 SO, HBP, 5 RBI, .429/.478/.857

Molina: 23 PA, 3-21, BB, SF, 2 SO, 2 RBI, .143/.174/.143

DeJong: 19 PA, 4-18, 2B, 2 BB, 10 SO, 2 RBI, .222/.300/.278

Carpenter: 9 PA, 1-5, 3 BB, 2 SO, SF, 3 RBI, .200/.444/.200

Bader: 10 PA, 2-10, 5 SO, RBI, .200/.200/.200

J. Martinez: 3 PA, 2-3, SO, .667/.667/.667

Arozarena: 3 PA, 0-3, 2 SO, .000/.000/.000

Wieters: 1 PA, 0-1, .000/.000/.000

Munoz: DNP

Pitching Tale of the Tape

Mikolas: 2 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO

Flaherty: 2 G, 2 GS, 13 IP, 12 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 16 SO, 2 HR

Wainwright: 1 G, 1 GS, 7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 SO

Hudson: 1 G, 1 GS, 4.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO, 1 HR

C. Martinez: 3 G, 3.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO, 2 HR

Webb: 3 G, 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 IBB, 4 SO

Gallegos: 3 G, 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 SO, allowed 2 out of 3 inherited runners to score

Brebbia: 3 G, 2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO

Miller: 3 G, 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 IBB, 1 SO

Helsley: 2 G, 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO

Cabrera: 1 G, 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO

Ponce de Leon: DNP