No one predicted it would go down like this.
Game 6 of the National League Championship Series was set up to be a classic pitchers’ duel. And for one half of it, it was. But the best pitcher in baseball failed to show up.
Clayton Kershaw was shelled, taking the loss after allowing seven runs on 10 hits over 4+ innings, as the Cardinals beat the Dodgers 9-0 to capture the N.L. Pennant and advance to their fourth World Series in the last 10 years. It is the franchise’s 19th Pennant.
It became apparent in the fifth inning that St. Louis would be on its way back to the World Series. Already leading 4-0, the Cardinals sent 10 batters to the plate, adding five more runs and knocking Kershaw from the game.
Yadier Molina got the inning started with a single to right, but reached second when Yasiel Puig misplayed the ball, one of several mistakes by the Dodgers’ rookie on the night. After David Freese singled to left, Matt Adams doubled to left, plating Molina. That would be it for Kershaw after 98 pitches.
Reliever Ronald Belisario was able to eliminate Freese on a fielder’s choice, then intentionally walked Pete Kozma to load the bases for pitcher Michael Wacha. Wacha hit a chopper to second, but Mark Ellis couldn’t get the ball out of his glove, and the throw home was late.
After another pitching change, the Cardinals picked up three more runs. The first came on a Matt Carpenter sacrifice fly, another came when Kozma scored on a J.P. Howell wild pitch, and Wacha scored the fifth run of the frame on a Carlos Beltran single, making the score 9-0.
It was the second time in the game the Cardinals had batted around in an inning. The first came in the third when they scored their first four runs.
Carpenter doubled with one out and scored on a Beltran single to right to break the scoreless tie. Beltran advanced to second on Puig’s weak throw back into the infield. That allowed him to score two batters later on a Molina single to center.
With Freese and Adams reaching on a single and walk, respectively, to load the bases, Shane Robinson came through with a big hit for the second straight game, delivering a two-RBI single.
St. Louis finished with 13 hits and five players had at least two, led by Beltran’s 3-for-4 performance. At 36-years-old, he will now be playing in his first World Series.
The nine runs from the Cardinals were more than enough as, once again, Wacha was incredible. He shut down the Dodgers’ bats for seven innings, allowing just three baserunners on two hits and a walk on his way to picking up the win.
He also earned the win over Kershaw in a true pitchers’ duel in Game 2, which St. Louis won 1-0. He finished the NLCS without giving up a run over 13.2 innings. He allowed seven total hits and two walks while striking out 13. It was enough for him to be named the NLCS MVP.
The Cardinals will now await the winner of the American League Championship Series to find out their World Series opponent. The Red Sox currently lead the Tigers three games to two in the best-of-seven, with Game 6 set for Saturday night.
St. Louis has played both Boston and Detroit three times in past World Series and has won two against each of them. The Cardinals defeated the Red Sox in 1946 and 1967, but were swept by them in 2004. They beat the Tigers in 1934 and 2006, and lost to them in 1968.
Game 1 of the World Series will be played in the American League champion’s park on Wednesday night.