Beltran's October heroics continue in NLCS opener
Playoff vet plates all three Cards runs, including walk-off single, adds run-saving throw
ST. LOUIS -- Carlos Beltran walked into the victorious home clubhouse wearing an undershirt and carrying his rolled-up jersey in his hands. The once-white Cardinals jersey was stained with red Gatorade, the buttons lying somewhere on the Busch Stadium turf, evidence of his teammates ripping it off him in celebration of his walk-off single in the 13th inning of Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
Soon, the jersey had an authentication sticker affixed to it and was ready for Beltran to take home. While the uniform top may be done for the series, the bad news for the Dodgers is that Beltran will be back in action for Game 2 on Saturday (3 p.m. CT on TBS).
You don't tug on Superman's cape, but it is perfectly acceptable to tear off Beltran's jersey. And make no mistake about it, when it comes to October baseball, Beltran is a superhero. Beltran drove in all three of the Cards' runs in the 3-2, 13-inning win over the Dodgers on Friday night, and he also made a game-saving play on defense.
"He's a stud, man," second baseman Matt Carpenter said. "There's really no explanation, the guy just rises to the occasion and finds a way to make plays in these types of games. He's a special player."
With three total bases in six at-bats, Beltran's postseason slugging percentage actually dipped from .761 to .750. Still, it's good enough to rank third in playoff history, just ahead of Babe Ruth.
"I try not to keep up with the numbers, because when you try to keep up with the numbers, you could get caught out there trying to do a lot of bad things and trying to look for homers and trying to change your approach," Beltran said. "I'm aware of what I have done."
Beltran has reached safely in 36 of his 40 postseason games, and he has at least one hit in 31 of them. His first hit Friday came at a crucial time.
After the Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in the third, Beltran walked to the plate in the bottom half of the inning with two outs and runners at first and second. To that point, Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke had been almost unhittable, but Beltran crushed a ball deep to center that hit off Andre Ethier's glove and the wall for a two-run double.
Turns out that after his first at-bat, in which he struck out looking in the first, Beltran made a quick trip to the video room to take a look at how Greinke had gotten him out.
"So in my second at-bat, I had a little bit of an idea of how they were trying to pitch me," Beltran said. "So I kind of like was looking for a pitch out there. Once I hit it, I didn't know for sure it wasn't going to leave the ballpark, but I was hoping that it was going to be enough to fall for a hit. Almost Ethier made a good play there."
Ethier thought he was going to do just that.
"It hit off my glove," the Dodgers outfielder said. "I hit the wall at the same time the ball did, and I didn't come up with it."
That was the extent of St. Louis' offense until the decisive 13th, but before Beltran could win the game in that frame, he had to save it in the 10th. With one out and runners on first and third, Michael Young lifted a fly ball to right-center.
"I felt that I was going to have a better angle than [center fielder] Jon Jay," Beltran said. "So I called the ball about five or six times, and Jon Jay was able to hear me and leave it up to me. Once I caught it, I was hoping to make a good throw to home."
The one-hop throw got to catcher Yadier Molina in plenty of time for him to set himself for the coming collision with Mark Ellis, who was rumbling down the third-base line.
"I was thinking Carlos would make a good throw, but at the same time, I was just hoping that when he got that bounce, don't bounce the ball over my head," Molina said. "I was worried about that, but it was a great bounce for me, and I caught it and made the tag."
Double play. Inning over.
Finally in the 13th, with runners at first and second and one out, the Dodgers brought closer Kenley Jansen in to face Beltran. After Jansen got a backdoor cutter over for strike one, he tried to get Beltran to chase three straight pitches out of the zone and fell behind 3-1.
"I knew he was going to throw a pitch that I was going to be able to hit," Beltran said. "To me, it was a pitch right down the middle. I don't blame him, because he's trying to make a pitch. He's behind in the count and he's trying to make a pitch. But in that case, like I said, I was trying to hit the ball hard. I wasn't really looking for anything else more than a hit."
The line drive landed in the outfield grass in right as Daniel Descalso scored the game-winning run.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.