Walk-off by Wong makes Cardinals a 5-4 winner, evens the NLCS at one game each
No team has ever won the LCS after dropping the first two games at home, so to avoid having to face that statistic, the Cardinals would have to rebound from Saturday's loss with a victory in Game 2 on Sunday night at Busch Stadium. Their starter, Lance Lynn, was coming off a career year and was playoff-tested.
The Giants rode a dominant performance by Madison Bumgarner to win Game 1 and were looking to take a commanding advantage in the NLCS. Jake Peavy was rejuvenated this season when the Giants acquired him before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. He entered Sunday with a streak of allowing two earned runs or fewer in 10 consecutive starts.
Most of the Cardinals offense came via the long ball on Sunday. Matt Carpenter got the scoring started in the third inning with a solo shot off Peavy to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead:
Randal Grichuk would add an RBI single during the next inning to extend the lead to 2-0, but Peavy limited the damage to just one run in what could have been a potentially big inning for the Cardinals.
The Giants continued to show their resiliency. Joaquin Arias drove in a run on a groundout to second base in the fifth. Then, Pablo Sandoval doubled in the sixth inning and scored on a single off the bat of Hunter Pence, tying the game at 2:
San Francisco took its first lead of the night in the seventh, when Gregor Blanco singled to right field to put the Giants ahead, 3-2, silencing the crowd at Busch Stadium:
Well, they were quiet until Oscar Taveras pinch-hit and tied the game on a home run in the bottom of the inning:
Oscar Taveras' is the first-ever tying or go-ahead pinch-hit HR for Cards in the postseason #NLCS- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 13, 2014
Matt "Big City" Adams hit a go-ahead solo blast in the eighth, and then the celebration was really on:
The Cardinals called on closer Trevor Rosenthal to make the lead stand, but he promptly allowed a pair of one-out singles and gave the Giants new life. This Cardinals fan could barely bring himself to watch:
Then Rosenthal bounced a pitch past catcher Tony Cruz -- replacing an injured Yadier Molina -- and pinch-runner Matt Duffy scored easily from second base. The game was tied at 4:
That set the stage for Kolten Wong, the hero from Game 3 of the NLDS, to become the hero once again:
Walk-off winners don't need helmets:
The Game Changer
Four of the Cardinals' five runs in Game 2 came via the home run: Matt Carpenter in the third, Oscar Taveras in the seventh, Matt Adams one inning later and Wong's walk-off blast in the ninth. This comes from a team that hit the fewest home runs in the National League during the regular season:
The Cardinals hit four homers in a game only once this season, July 11 at Milwaukee.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) October 13, 2014
From Matt Holliday's three-run home run in Game 1 of the NLDS to Carpenter's third-inning blast Sunday night, the Cardinals plated 12 consecutive runs on homers. Seventeen of their 23 postseason runs have come via the long ball.
Other Key Players/Plays
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said prior to the game that he was starting Randal Grichuk in right field over Oscar Taveras because of Grichuk's ability on defense. The decision paid off right away in the first inning, with this catch that robbed Buster Posey of extra bases:
Matt Carpenter has suddenly become the Cardinals' biggest power threat. He now has four homers this postseason, after hitting just eight during the regular season in 709 at-bats:
The Cardinals were dealt a potentially huge setback in the sixth inning when Yadier Molina had to be removed from the game after grounding into a double play. He could not even make it out of the batter's box and was diagnosed with a left oblique strain.
There are few players in baseball who are more important to their team's success than Molina, so losing him for an extended period of time could be devastating for the Cardinals' chances of making the World Series. Before his early exit, however, Molina knocked his 89th career postseason hit, moving him past Albert Pujols for the most in team history.
The series shifts to San Francisco for Game 3 on Tuesday afternoon, where each team will send a veteran to take the mound.
The Giants will try to rebound with Tim Hudson, who is making his first career appearance in the LCS against the Cardinals' John Lackey, who has thrown more postseason innings than any other active pitcher.