It was October 11, 2013 and there was a pit in my stomach. The Cardinals scorched through the regular season to a league-leading 97 wins (tied with the Boston Red Sox). They finished a grueling series against the Pirates, going to a deciding game five after sending out their rookie starter Michael Wacha to save them from elimination in game four. Adam Wainwright pitched a game that would be remembered for years to come to send the Cardinals on to the NLCS. That meant one thing, though:
The Cardinals best pitcher would be on the bench until game three.
Opposing them was the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a pitching staff that had been heralded throughout the season. The staff was lead by Clayton Kershaw, who topped baseball that season with a 1.83 ERA in 236 innings pitched. He was followed by Hyun-Jin Ryu and former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke.
Greinke was the opposition for the Cardinals on this night. Opposing him would be Joe Kelly, a pitcher with an interesting repertoire, but was seemingly unable to make it all come together as a starter. He was a case that had been debated for years: Starter or Reliever? Tonight it was starter against one of the best pitchers in the league. It was an unfavorable matchup and a loss in this game would mean the Cardinals would have to face Kershaw and Ryu trailing 0-1 in the series with three of the next four games in LA.
And so we go back to the pit in my stomach.
The game wore on and the pit grew restless. The Dodgers plated two runs in the top of the third on a Juan Uribe single. The Cardinals answered in the bottom of the frame on a Carlos Beltrán double. The game stayed tied at two runs. Night rolled over into morning. Inning after inning were etched into history.
A one-out triple in the top of the tenth put the Cardinals up against their biggest threat of the night. Then Carlos Beltran saved them.
With one out in the bottom of the thirteenth, a single and walk gave the Cardinals the advantage, prompting the Dodgers to bring in their best reliever, Kenley Janson, to face none other than the hero of the night, Carlos Beltrán. We all know what happened next.
Without Beltrán, the Cardinals might not have won that series. Fortunately, the Cardinals did have Carlos Beltrán and on this day in 2013, he saved the Cardinals.
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