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Robinson makes most of rare start for Cards

Reserve center fielder delivers two-run single during third-inning rally

ST. LOUIS -- When Shane Robinson arrived at Busch Stadium on Friday afternoon, manager Mike Matheny asked him if he was ready to go.

"Yeah, if you need me," Robinson said.

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It's been Robinson's job to be "ready to go" all year. The 28-year-old outfielder has spent much of the season on St. Louis' bench, awaiting any opportunity to play.

So when Matheny told Robinson, "I think I'm going to unleash you today," he didn't disappoint. In his first start of the postseason, Robinson followed up his pinch-hit homer in Game 4 with a pair of singles, two RBIs and a run to help the Cardinals clinch the National League Championship Series in Friday's 9-0 victory over the Dodgers.

"It feels good, man. Any way I can contribute and help our team win," Robinson said, interrupted by a shower of champagne and beer from celebrating teammates.

"Shane's never been accused of being a big [guy], has he?" Adam Wainwright said of his 5-foot-9 teammate. "But I'll tell you what, he's a big-time player. We needed him to step up for us, and he did it in a big way."

As a key member of St. Louis' reserves, Robinson batted .286 (14-for-49) when coming off the bench in the regular season, and he started 30 games in the outfield. Though he has made just eight plate appearances this October, he's made the most of them, driving in three runs with three hits and two runs scored.

"He's done this all year for us," second baseman Matt Carpenter said. "He doesn't get to play a lot, but when he does get his opportunities, he does a good job for us. Today was no different. The other day with the pinch-hit homer, that was a huge deal. He got the start today and he had a great game."

Robinson's path to becoming one of the Cardinals' top bench players wasn't an easy one. In 2011, he was involved in an outfield collision that left him with fractured bones in his face and a broken finger, just one year removed from a season-ending collarbone injury. Robinson battled his way back to the Majors and has been a consistent contributor this year, earning a trip to his first World Series.

"It's an honor. I'm glad they stuck with me," Robinson said. "I know with injuries, it kind of looked like this might be the end. I'm just fortunate enough that they stuck with me. The guys believed in me, and I worked really hard to get here. I had a lot of support from the guys in the organization and my family. I'm just going to enjoy it. You can't ask for more."

Embodying his club's mantra of "next man up," Robinson is just the latest St. Louis player to contribute when called upon, which after his NLCS performance, could turn out to be more often in the World Series.

"We talk about the Cardinal Way all the time. I think coming up through the Minor Leagues, it's instilled in us and everybody buys into it," Robinson said. "I think that's really helped us get to where we are, and that's why our team is so good. Man, what a game. I'm still in awe of it. I'm so happy we're going to the World Series now."

Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for

St. Louis Cardinals, Shane Robinson