ATLANTA – With a stunning outburst their first time up, the St. Louis Cardinals scored 10 runs for the biggest opening inning in postseason history and dealt the Atlanta Braves another playoff heartbreak with a 13-1 rout in a decisive Game 5 of the NL Division Series on Wednesday.
Before many fans had reached their seats, the Cardinals were already booking their plans for the NL Championship Series, where they will face either the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Washington Nationals in a best-of-seven set beginning Friday.
It will be St. Louis' first NLCS trip since 2014.
“We know we can beat anyone at this point,” Kolten Wong said.
It might take a while for the Braevs to get over this debacle.
After pitching seven scoreless innings in a Game 2 win, Mike Foltynewicz retired only one hitter before getting yanked. First baseman Freddie Freeman made a crucial error that might have limited the damage. The Cardinals scored their final run of the inning on a strikeout – a wild pitch in the dirt that got away from catcher Brian McCann.
“We just strung together a bunch of great at-bats,” Wong said.
It was Atlanta's 10th straight postseason round loss since its last victory 18 years ago, tying the mark set by the Chicago Cubs between 1908 and 2003.
“Everything went wrong,” Freeman said.
St. Louis leadoff man Dexter Fowler batted three times before the bottom of Atlanta's order got its first looks, and the Cardinals made several changes after their 10-spot in what might've been the first set of defensive changes ever made by a team before its opponent had batted. There was no need to worry about any more offense with Jack Flaherty on the mound, coming off one of the great second halves by a starting pitcher in baseball history.
“We took the crowd out of it,” Fowler said. “We knew Folty would try to get ahead of us. We were trying to get some good pitches to hit. It was a little easier to see the ball today.”
Flaherty had not given up more than three runs in 15 starts after the All-Star break, posting a 0.91 ERA. The 23-year-old right-hander certainly wasn't going to let this massive lead get away, though Josh Donaldson – in perhaps his final game with the Braves – gave the fans a brief reason to cheer in a 13-0 game when he homered over the center-field wall in the fourth.
The Cardinals batted around and got more than halfway through their order a second time. Tommy Edman, Fowler and Wong had two-run doubles as St. Louis equaled the highest-scoring inning in postseason history, a record initially set by the Philadelphia Athletics against the Chicago Cubs in the 1929 World Series. It was matched by the Detroit Tigers (1968 World Series vs. St. Louis), the Anaheim Angeles (2002 ALCS vs. Minnesota) and, now, the Cardinals.