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9 crucial moments from Friday's Dodgers-Cardinals NLCS Game 6

With the Cardinals leading the Dodgers 3-2 heading into NLCS Game 6, it was win-or-go-home time for Los Angeles. The Dodgers had ace Clayton Kershaw starting for them, while the Cards opted to go with Game 2 star Michael Wacha.

Would the Game 2 rematch end differently for the Dodgers? Would Carlos Beltran keep being Carlos Beltran? Would Scott Van Slyke and Joe Kelly stare at each other for all eternity?

StandOff

Let's go to the GIFs:

Wacha has been an absolute stud for the Cardinals, and he continued his wheeling-and-dealing ways in Game 6. He was so on point, he didn't even need to wait for the umpire's call to know he had struck out Yasiel Puig in the second inning:

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In the third inning, the Cardinals offense gave Wacha a lead to protect. 

Second baseman Matt Carpenter got the hitters going with a one-out double following an 11-pitch at-bat, and postseason-maestro Carlos Beltran brought him home for the first run of the game:

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Then with a runner at second, Yadier Molina did his job for the Cardinals, scoring Beltran on a single up the middle. David Freese and Matt Adams reached on a single and walk, respectively, loading the bases for outfielder Shane Robinson.

Robinson came up big for the Redbirds, hitting another ground ball to right field and scoring Molina and Freese in the process:

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St. Louis ended the third with a comfortable 4-0 lead, but remained weary of a response from the Dodgers' sluggers

In the top of the fifth, Dodgers second baseman Juan Uribe clobbered a line-drive that looked destined to be a rally-starting extra-base hit, but Carlos Beltran ended those hopes with the defensive play of the game:

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Beltran's catch clearly brought momentum into the bottom half of the inning, where the Cardinals would all but put the game away.

Molina began the proceedings with a single to right field, but outfielder Yasiel Puig blundered the play, allowing him to advance to second:

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Freese followed up with another single, and Matt Adams clobbered a double to left field, plating Molina and advancing Freese to third:

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The Cardinals caught fire -- batting around in the inning, scoring four more runs and bringing the score to an intimidating 9-0.

With that big a lead, the series was effectively over, largely due to the shutdown pitching of Michael Wacha.

Wacha and the Cardinals bullpen allowed just one more Dodgers baserunner for the rest of the game. In the top of the ninth, Trevor Rosenthal came in to slam the door and gave Busch Stadium something to celebrate:

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The usually-exuberant Dodgers were utterly bummed out:

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And it was fireworks time in St. Louis:

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With that win, the Cardinals became National League Champions and punched themselves a ticket to the World Series. Michael Wacha earned himself the NLCS MVP award, finishing the game with five strikeouts and two hits allowed.

In case you're wondering (and we're gonna go ahead and guess that you are), the Cards take the field again on Wednesday for Game 1 of the Fall Classic, where they'll face off against either the Tigers or Red Sox.