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Baseball’s been around long enough that for the most part, there’s nothing new under the sun. Over thousands of games a year, for more than 100 years, everything that can happen pretty much has. That makes it particularly special when America’s oldest professional team sport spits out something truly novel, like the Cardinals putting up 10 runs in the top of the first inning of Game 5 of the NLDS, en route to a decisive 13-1 win and series victory.
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Even by the standards of the dramatic first week of the 2019 playoffs, the Braves-Cardinals NLDS had been particularly close: a combined margin of victory of seven runs in the first four games, with three of those contests decided by a comeback in the eighth inning or later. The one exception was Atlanta’s 3-0 win in Game 2, which featured a phenomenal pitching duel between resurgent Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz and Cardinals youngster Jack Flaherty, who’d been the best pitcher in the National League over the last two months of the regular season.
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Game 5 was supposed to be a similarly cagey affair, and Cardinals manager Mike Shildt testified to that belief when he ordered second baseman Kolten Wong to lay down a sacrifice bunt on just the second play of the game. Little did anyone know at the time that the next nine Cardinals would reach base, and St. Louis would end the top of the first inning up 10 runs, the most ever scored in the first inning of an MLB postseason game and the joint-most scored in any inning of a postseason game.
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The Braves were never really that close to being out of danger, but time after time they spurned opportunities to wrench the malfunctioning spigot closed. Freddie Freeman booted a ground ball to load the bases down 1-0, then Foltynewicz walked Matt Carpenter to force in a run. Tommy Edman’s double swerved just inside the first base bag like a Roger Federer forehand to score two more runs, and with one out and a four-run hole, Braves manager Brian Snitker called on Foltynewicz to walk eight-hole hitter Paul DeJong to load the bases, then called on lefty reliever Max Fried to face Flaherty in the hopes of preserving some chance of a comeback.
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A four-run first-inning deficit, one that forces the visiting starting pitcher to pick up a bat before throwing a pitch, is a body blow, but not necessarily a fatal one, even against a pitcher like Flaherty. Fried, who played his high school ball at California’s Harvard-Westlake with Flaherty and White Sox righty Lucas Giolito, won 17 games out of the rotation this year and has been Snitker’s first arm out of the bullpen this series, with scoreless appearances to his name in the first three games of the NLDS.
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In yesterday’s elimination game, the biggest players on the St. Louis Cardinals stepped up and it’s the only reason the team is alive today. There have been plenty of times this year where the best players on the St. Louis Cardinals were not playing like they were. It was actually something mentioned by Fox Sports Midwest announcer, Dan McLaughlin, that jarred this idea. The team’s biggest offensive threats, Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna, have never truly been hot at the same time.
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Both players had good years, both players are certainly streaky players, but they never were on at the same time. Danny Mac wondered, what would the offense look like if they were both on fire?
At the same time, how many times have the Cardinals needed a big player to step up in a big moment and they haven’t? How many more games could the Cardinals have won in the regular season and postseason if the team’s biggest players had stepped up just one more time?
This hindsight is not necessarily fair to those players, but if they don’t step up, who else is supposed to?
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As the Cardinals went into NLDS Game 4 on Monday in Busch Stadium, fans were scared that it could be the final game of the 2019 season. The Braves had jumped on Carlos Martinez and everyone’s mood seemed to be grim and angry at the same time.
The biggest players on the Cardinals wanted to play more baseball it seems.
It started with Goldschmidt in the first inning. Seeing Dallas Keuchel for the second time in four days, Goldy hit his second homer of the series, putting the Cardinals out front early. Marcell Ozuna followed that up with a homer of his own and all the sudden Cardinals fans were in the game.
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MORE FROM CARDINALS NEWS St. Louis Cardinals: Helsley’s ‘Chop’ Beef In Focus For Game 5 St. Louis Cardinals: Mike Shildt’s Gutsy Call In NLDS Game 4 St. Louis Cardinals: Molina In ‘Throat-Slashing Gesture’ Brouhaha How The St. Louis Cardinals Rotation Stacks Up Against Atlanta’s St. Louis Cardinals: Dexter Fowler’s 2019 Was Exactly What He Needed In his next trip to the plate, Ozuna hit yet another homer off Keuchel, making it a 3-1 game at the time. Dakota Hudson, in his first postseason start, started off well and ended up going 4.2 innings, only pulled because of the two unearned runs he gave up when Ozzie Albies gave the Braves the lead in the 5th inning.
Along with Hudson, fans were knocked out of the game too as all of a sudden, everyone realized they could be four innings from the end of the season.
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The Cardinals had something to say about that though.
After a Paul Goldschmidt double, the guy who is always part of the biggest moments, Yadier Molina, stepped up.
St. Louis Cardinals ✔ @Cardinals