WASHINGTON – Doesn’t matter how bad things look for the St. Louis Cardinals. Trailing by a bunch, down to their last strike, they simply stay calm and do what it takes to win.
Erasing an early six-run hole in Game 5 slowly but surely, the defending World Series champion Cardinals got a tying two-out, two-run single from Daniel Descalso and a go-ahead two-run single from Pete Kozma in the ninth inning and came all the way back to beat the Washington Nationals 9-7 Friday night and win their NL division series.
It was the largest comeback ever in a winner-take-all postseason game, according to STATS LLC. No other club in this sort of ultimate pressure situation had come back from more than four down.
Bryce Harper tripled during an early burst, then homered the next time up as the Nationals took a 6-3 lead after six innings.
A night after Jayson Werth capped a 13-pitch at-bat by hitting a winning home run in the ninth inning, the Nationals needed only seven pitches to put the defending World Series champions in early trouble.
Werth led off with a double against Adam Wainwright, Harper tripled and Ryan Zimmerman homered for a 3-0 lead in the first. Harper and Michael Morse chased Wainwright with home runs in the third.
The 19-year-old Harper became the first teenager to hit a triple in a postseason game – and the second-youngest player to homer.
Down 6-0, the Cardinals trimmed the deficit with a run in the fourth and two more in the fifth. Still, the two-spot was a letdown given that St. Louis had loaded the bases with none out, with Gonzalez suddenly unable to find the strike zone.
St. Louis will face San Francisco on Sunday in Game 1 of the NL championship series in San Francisco.
Wainwright was gone after 2 1/3 innings, giving up six runs and seven hits. Joe Kelly came on to finish the third and also worked a scoreless fourth. Trevor Rosenthal set the Nationals down in order in the fifth, and Edward Mujica emerged unscathed in the sixth despite allowing two baserunners.