NLDS Game 5: Cardinals advance to NLCS with dominant win against Braves

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor

In one of the most dominant postseason performances ever, the St. Louis Cardinals rolled to a 13-1 victory against the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the National League Division Series.

With the win, the Cardinals have punched their ticket to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2014. As for the Braves, they’ll head back to the drawing board after failing to advance beyond the NLDS for the second straight season.

On the heels of their season-saving walk-off win in Game 4, the Cardinals rocked the Braves for a postseason record-tying 10 runs in the first inning of this win-or-go home battle. St. Louis did most of its damage against Game 2 winner Mike Foltynewicz. Seven of the eight batters the Braves starter faced reached base, with the only out coming on Kolten Wong’s sacrifice bunt.

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In total, 14 batters came to the plate. Five batters reached on hits, four by walks, one by error and another on a botched strikeout.

Foltynewicz was charged with seven runs (six earned), while reliever Max Fried was charged with three earned runs.

Needless to say, the Braves picked a terrible time to have the worst inning in the franchise’s last 94 years.

Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty ensured there would be no historic comeback. The 22-year-old right-hander limited the Braves to one run on five hits over six innings to pick up his first career postseason win.

The Cardinals will now await the winner of the other NLDS between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers.

St. Louis Cardinals advanced to the NLCS after defeating the Atlanta Braves 13-1 in NLDS Game 5. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
St. Louis Cardinals advanced to the NLCS after defeating the Atlanta Braves 13-1 in NLDS Game 5. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE

• Kolten Wong: The veteran second baseman got off to a slow start in the postseason, hitting just .176 through four games. He came alive though in Game 5, reaching base three times with a double, single and walk. His first-inning two-run double was one of several daggers delivered by St. Louis. Wong also laid down a sacrifice bunt to set up the Cardinals first run.

• Tommy Edman: The Cardinals got contributions from everywhere in the lineup. The first inning wouldn’t have been so damaging though without Edman delivering a crushing two-run double. That hit turned a good start for St. Louis into a game-winning rally. Edman would later add a triple to raise his NLDS average to .333.

• Jack Flaherty: Pitching with a huge lead isn’t always as easy as it seems. Flaherty, who had allowed just 10 earned runs since the All-Star break, handled the task with the same focus and determination that helped him become one of MLB’s breakout stars.

MUST-SEE MOMENT

The Cardinals provided must-see moment after must-see moment in the decisive first inning:

WHAT THEY'LL BE TALKING ABOUT

There was already plenty of discussion about Freddie Freeman’s postseason struggles after he went hitless in 12 at-bats in Games 2 through 4. His first-inning error, which opened the floodgates for St. Louis in Game 5, will only add fuel to that fire. Freeman’s rough series came on the heels of him calling out Ronald Acuña Jr. for his lack of hustle in Game 1. Braves fans wanted Freeman to lead with his play on the field, not his words. That never happened.

Despite the easy win, there will be a lot of talk about the Cardinals decision to extend ace Flaherty beyond 100 pitches in a game they never led by less than 10 runs after the first inning. The extended outing will eliminate Flaherty from the Cardinals rotation plans in Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS.

WHAT'S NEXT

We know the Cardinals will be playing in Game 1 of the NLCS on Friday. Their opponent will be determined when the Nationals and Dodgers battle in Game 5 on Wednesday evening. If the Dodgers win, the Cardinals will head to Los Angeles. If the Nationals win, the Cardinals will host Game 1 at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals were 4-3 against the Dodgers this season and 5-2 against the Nationals.

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