Cardinals edge Nationals, barge into NLCS vs. Giants
Washington, DC, United States (4E Sports) – Down to their final strike twice, the St. Louis Cardinals unleashed four runs in the ninth inning to snatch a 9-7 victory over the Washington Nationals in a do-or-die Game 5 Friday and clinch a spot in the National League Championship Series.
Trailing by two entering the ninth, the Cardinals led off with a double from Carlos Beltran before Nationals closer Drew Storen retired two, lifting a sellout Nationals Park crowd to its feet.
Storen, however, failed to get the final strike against Yadier Molina and David Freese, walking them instead to load the bases and extend the inning. Daniel Descalso then hit a two-run single to tie the count.
The closer later gave up a two-run single to Pete Kozma that gave the Cardinals a two-run lead. St. Louis closer Jason Motte, in a rare two-inning appearance, returned to the mound to close the game and earn the Cards a ticket in the NL Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants.
Game 1 of the NLCS between previous World Series champions will be played in San Francisco Sunday.
“We never give up,” Kozma said. “They teach us that from the very beginning.”
The Nationals looked headed for an easy win when they took a 6-0 lead in the third inning behind homers by Rryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse against Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, who lasted just 2 1/3 innings after giving up six earned runs on seven hits with five strikeouts.
“You don’t envision yourself getting behind 6-0, especially with Adam Wainwright on the mound, but we knew we had a lot of game left and we just needed to keep grinding and battling,” Descalso said. “We chipped away and chipped away, and finally we put ourselves within striking distance late in the game and had some big at-bats there at the end.”
Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, a 21-game winner in the regular season, gave up an RBI double to Matt Holliday in the fourth and allowed two more runs in the — one on a wild pitch and the other on a bases-loaded walk.
In the seventh, Holliday added an RBI groundout and Descalso led off the eighth with a homer, clearing the way for an all-out assault in the ninth.
Gonzalez pitched five innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits with four walks and five strikeouts while Storen absorbed the loss and blown save after giving up four earned runs in the ninth.
“I just told them it was nothing to hang your head about,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “It was a great year. We overcame a lot of problems. We proved our worth and we just need to let this be a lesson — learn from it, have more resolve, come back and carry it a lot farther.”