The playoffs didn’t end the way that the Cardinals started them, but the team gave fans plenty of highlights along the way. Here are our top 10.
10. Umpires make correct infield-fly call, NLWC
The enduring image from the Cardinals’ first playoff game in 2012 was the barbaric behavior of Braves’ fans at Turner Field. It would’ve been boorish regardless of the umpires’ call that they were protesting, but the fact that the umpires got the infield-fly rule on which shortstop Pete Kozma dropped Andrelton Simmons’s deep popup, right made it all the more egregious. After a long delay, Jason Motte came in to put out the fire and send the Cardinals to the NLDS.
9. Mike Matheny brings Jason Motte for a two-inning save, NLCS Game 3
Mike Matheny made his share of managing gaffes in the postseason, but he shone when he brought in his best reliever, Jason Motte, in the eighth inning of NLCS Game 3 to protect a 3-1 lead in St. Louis.
8. Adam Wainwright strikes out 10, NLDS Game 1
The Cardinal ace fanned 10 of the 26 batters that he faced, outpitching Washington’s Gio Gonzalez in the series opener. Wainwright became the first Cardinal pitcher to strike out 10 in a postseason game since Bob Gibson in the 1968 World Series.
7. Carlos Beltran’s double-dinger game, NLDS Game 2
After a frustrating Game 1 in which the Cardinals crossed home only twice and tallied only three total bases, Carlos Beltran channeled Lance Berkman and slammed two home home runs, one from each side of the plate. His eight total bases helped power the team to a 12-4 win and a happy flight to Washington.
6. Jon Jay’s catch and crash into the wall, NLDS Game 2
The NLCS was fraught with dodgy defense, but the Cardinals flashed the leather in the division series. The most memorable defensive highlight of the series was Jon Jay’s crash in the centerfield wall that recalled erstwhile Cardinal center fielder Jim Edmonds. As we wrote after the game, “Our favorite part of his wall-slamming catch in the sixth was that he sacrificed his body with a 93% win expectancy.”
5. Pete Kozma goes from first to third on a sacrifice bunt, NLDS Game 2
Whatever Pete Kozma’s true talent level, he proved that he at least gets the most out of what he has when he made his own “mad dash” from first to third on Lance Lynn’s sacrifice bunt in Game 2 against Washington. Enos Slaughter would be proud.
4. Matt Holliday’s takeout slide of Marco Scutaro, NLCS Game 2
No amount of broadcaster hand-wringing and praising of Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro for his “professionalism” in “handling the situation” — or Matt Holliday’s multiple apologies — could take away from the glory of the Cardinal left fielder’s hard-nosed takeout slide that prevented a double play. Holliday added himself to the list of noteworthy ballplayers who made sure that the defense would get only one out, like Joe Morgan and Hal McRae. The only blemish was that he apologized too much for it.
3. Matt Carpenter hits a “pinch” home run off Matt Cain, NLCS Game 3
After Carlos Beltran left the game with a knee injury, Mike Matheny pressed Matt Carpenter into action. With his parents in the stands after traveling all night from Texas, Carpenter cracked a game-breaking two-run home run — a game-high 23% WPA. Not only did it give the Cardinals the lead, but it proved that the Giants’ ace was not impenetrable and put them in control of the series.
2. Pete Kozma’s go-ahead hit, NLDS Game 5
Kozma was probably the least likely Cardinal to be a hero. Yet with the game tied and the Nationals shell-shocked from Daniel Descalso’s game-tying hit, the Wizard of Koz softly lined a Drew Storen 95-mph fastball down the right field line to score David Freese and Descalso. The two-run single added 41.4% win expectancy, the highest of the playoffs for any Cardinal player, and was even bigger than Jayson Werth’s walk off homer the night before (37.2%).
1. Daniel Descalso game-tying hit, NLDS Game 5
If Daniel Descalso hadn’t delivered his game-tying hit in the ninth inning with two outs and the Nationals on the verge of winning the series, he could hardly have been blamed for the loss, having earlier doubled and homered. And yet, when fans asked that he get just one more hit — with the Nats’ win expectancy hovering at 86% — he did it. His liner glanced off shortstop Ian Desmond’s glove, allowing Carlos Beltran and pinch-runner Adron Chambers to score, for a win-expectancy swing of 36.4%. And he wasn’t even finished, swiping second base to set up Kozma’s two-run single.