Cardinals win, return to World Series

GOING ONE BETTER::The victory over the Dodgers helps erase the bitter memory of last year’s NLCS, which the Cards lost to San Francisco after leading 3-1

AFP, ST LOUIS, Missouri

Sun, Oct 20, 2013 - Page 20

The St Louis Cardinals punched their ticket to the World Series in emphatic style on Friday with a 9-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Cardinals wrapped up a 4-2 triumph in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series and await the winners of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers, which Boston lead 3-2.

The Cardinals are back in the Fall Classic for the fourth time in 10 seasons, and the first time since they defeated the Texas Rangers in 2011 for the 11th Major League Baseball title in club history.

The Cardinals’ rookie pitching sensation Michael Wacha allowed two hits in seven shut-out innings.

The 22-year-old right-hander struck out five in another dominant post-season performance.

“Just being with this group of guys, it makes my job easy,” Wacha said. “You just can’t let the moment get too big for you.”

“Whenever they put up nine runs, it makes my job a lot easier,” said Wacha, who was named Most Valuable Player of the series after beating Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in two games.

Kershaw, the 2011 Cy Young award-winner, gave up 10 hits in seven runs over four-plus innings for the National League West division champions, who were trying to return to the World Series for the first time since they won the title in 1988.

Carlos Beltran and Shane Robinson drove in two runs apiece for St Louis. Wacha was also credited with a run-batted-in during the fifth inning in which the Cardinals notched five runs to take their total to nine.

The victory erased the bitter memory of last year’s NLCS, in which the Cardinals led San Francisco 3-1 only to see the Giants roar back with three straight wins to reach the World Series, in which they swept the Tigers.

“They were on a mission from spring training,” Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt said of the team’s determination to bounce back from that defeat.

The Cardinals beat left-hander Kershaw for the fourth time in four meetings this season.

They tagged the Dodgers’ star hurler for four runs in the third to take control of the contest.

Matt Carpenter sparked the Cardinals’ third-inning outburst against Kershaw, capping an 11-pitch at-bat with a one-out double.

Beltran drove in the first run of the game with a single, and after Matt Holliday struck out for the second out of the third Yadier Molina smacked a single that scored Beltran.

Kershaw then surrendered a single and a walk to load the bases and Robinson, making his first start of the series, singled to plate two runs.

The Cardinals stretched their lead with a five-run fifth in which Beltran drove in the final run with his third hit of the game.

Beltran’s role was fitting as the 16-year Major League veteran booked his first trip to the World Series.

“I’m so happy right now,” said Beltran, who has played 2,109 career games including regular-season and playoff contests. “We did it as a team. We fought hard, we worked hard all season long, and thank God we’re here.”

Beltran had played seven prior post-season games with a World Series berth on the line, with his teams coming up short in all of them. That included the Cardinals’ game-five loss in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

“For him to finally get this opportunity makes for a very special night,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said.