Sports

MLB PLAYOFFS

Cardinals move on to World Series

By Mike Rutsey, Toronto Sun

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams slides past Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis to score during Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium Friday, October 18, 2013. (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams slides past Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis to score during Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium Friday, October 18, 2013. (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports)

ST. LOUIS - 

There would be no sour grapes for the Cardinals this series, just the sweet taste of champagne.

Unable to close out a 3-1 advantage in last year’s NLCS gutting against the San Francisco Giants, the Cardinals didn’t make the same mistake this time.

The curse was lifted Friday night as, on a chilly evening at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals went marching to the 19th World Series in franchise history by laying a 9-0 pounding on the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the best-of-seven series in six games.

They will play the winner of the Boston-Detroit series, with the opening game of the World Series set for next Wednesday in the American League city.

It was unbelievable finish in what figured to be another low-scoring game, what with the pitching matchup of the Cardinals’ Michael Wacha going against former Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.

It was no contest.

Wacha, the Cardinals’ sensational rookie right-hander, completely stymied the Dodgers on two hits over seven innings to gain his second victory of the series and earn MVP honours.

In Game 2, a 1-0 victory for the Cards, Wacha blanked the Dodgers over 6.2 innings while holding them to five hits. Two games, 13.2 innings of shutout ball.

In a game that meant so much to either club, it was the rookie that rocked and rolled.

Kershaw was simply crushed.

The left-hander was battered for four runs in the third when he needed an astounding 48 pitches to get through the inning and was gone after giving up three consecutive hits to start the fifth.

The beating was absolutely stunning.

Kershaw may be one of the best pitchers in the game but this season he went 0-4 vs. St. Louis, including losing twice to Wacha in this series.

Coming into the game the Cardinals maintained they were not looking back to last year’s debacle, only at the task at hand.

“We’re not worried about tomorrow, we’re worried about tonight,” was how Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma put it before the game.

Second baseman Matt Carpenter set the tone for the Cardinals in the third when, with one out, the left-handed batter won an 11-pitch battle with Kershaw by stroking a double into the right-field corner.

Carlos Beltran followed with an RBI single to right and advanced to second when Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig made a poor decision and attempted an off-balance throw to the plate. It allowed Beltran to move into scoring position at second.

After Matt Holliday struck out for the second out, Molina came through with an RBI single to centre.

The Cardinals were just getting warmed up.

David Freese followed Molina with another single and Matt Adams walked to load the bases for diminutive centre fielder Shane Robinson, who got the start over Jon Jay.

Robinson, who slugged a pinch-hit home run in Game 4, came through again as he punched a two-run single to right.

As Jerry Howarth would say: “The Cardinals are in flight.”

The Cardinals chased Kershaw in the fifth. Molina and Freese opened the inning with back-to-back singles and Adams stroked an RBI double to left to end Kershaw’s night.

Wacha came to the plate with one out and the bases loaded, hit a dribbler to second. Mark Ellis couldn’t get the ball out of his glove in time and his throw to the plate was late, making it 6-0.

A sacrifice fly, a wild pitch and an RBI single by Beltran led to three more runs and the Cards were up 9-0. The party was on.

Prior to the game, both manager’s were feeling confident.

Asked how tough Kershaw is, the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny lavished plenty of praise before adding: “He’s an elite‑style pitcher.

“But we’ve faced many elite‑style pitchers this year, and we’ve been able to put together a good game plan. Because even as good as he is, as good as any of them are, you’re going to have opportunities and you just have to capitalize on them when they come.”

Boy, did they ever.

Don Mattingly, meanwhile, believed his club would be more comfortable facing Wacha a second time.

“I do,” said the Dodgers manager. “I don’t know if that does us any good necessarily. He’s got great stuff. Nobody else has been able to figure him out and been able to do anything with him. Pittsburgh had seen him back‑to‑back and didn’t do anything with him.”

You can now add Los Angeles to that list.


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