Posted October 04, 2013

Beltran comes up big again in Cardinals’ win over Pirates in NLDS Game 1

Carlos Beltran, National League, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals
Carlos Beltran's three-run homer gave the Cardinals a big lead they never relinquished.

Carlos Beltran’s three-run homer gave the Cardinals a big lead that they never relinquished. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

He is a borderline Hall-of-Famer, a former Rookie of the Year, an eight-time All-Star and one of baseball’s greatest switch-hitters. And yet Carlos Beltran is rarely mentioned as one of the game’s greats. This was a typical year for Beltran, now 36 and in his 16th season. He put up his usual numbers — a .296 average with a .491 slugging percentage, and 24 home runs. He played through injuries. He was one of the best players on the best team in the National League — but, of course, you didn’t hear much about Carlos Beltran this season because … well, he’s Carlos Beltran.

In Game 1 of the NL Division Series in St. Louis, the Cardinals right fielder stepped up to the plate in the third inning to face Pirates starter AJ Burnett with two men on and ripped a three-run home run into the second deck at Busch Stadium, a majestic 443-foot shot that was the second longest home run ever hit in the ballpark by a left-handed hitter.

Beltran’s three-run homer was the biggest hit in St. Louis’ 9-1 win over Pittsburgh. It was also a hit that reminded us that the Cardinals — along with their formidable rotation and deep lineup — have one of the game’s great postseason players. After going 1-for-5 last night, Beltran is hitting .357/.455/.783 for his career in the playoffs. He has 15 postseason home runs, tied with Babe Ruth for the most in history. Beltran also has the highest career postseason slugging percentage and OPS (1.238). His ridiculous 20-for-46 romp with the Astros in the 2004 NL playoffs is one of the great October performances of all time. With first baseman Allen Craig likely out for the rest of the postseason with a foot sprain, Beltran might be the player to carry St. Louis back to the World Series.

Beyond Beltran’s homer, this was an impressive win for the Cardinals. Starter Adam Wainwright was dominant (one run allowed with 9 Ks in seven innings) and the offense, which led the league in runs this season, was powerful and effective. Much has been made about St. Louis’ success with runners in scoring position this season (they hit .330 with RISP, shattering the record held by the 1950 Red Sox), and the magic continued Thursday. The Cardinals went 2-for-4 with two walks and six RBIs with runners in scoring position in the third inning. The seven runs they scored in the frame set a record for the most in an NLDS game.

The Pirates’ unraveling began with a walk. Wainwright did not walk once in 71 regular season at-bats, but facing Burnett to lead off the third, the right-hander walked on eight pitches. Matt Carpenter followed with a single. Next came Beltran and his home run, and the rout was on.

Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle has one of the quickest hooks in baseball when it comes to his starters, so it was strange to see him keep Burnett in the game long after it was clear that the right-hander had far from his best stuff. Burnett threw 37 pitches in the third and didn’t record a single out. Swingman Jeanmar Gomez has been excellent this season, but by the time Hurdle turned to the righty to relieve Burnett, the Pirates were already down 7-0.

The takeaway from Game 1? St. Louis could be just fine without Craig. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told 920-AM in St. Louis that Craig is unlikely to play again in the postseason. With their offensive explosion in Game 1, the Cardinals nevertheless showed that they still have plenty of firepower without him.

Of course the series is far from over. If Pittsburgh can win Game 2 — St. Louis’ Lance Lynn faces the Pirates’ Gerrit Cole — it will be in good shape heading back to PNC Park, where ace Francisco Liriano is set to take the mound, and chants of “KELLL-LLLYYY” most certainly await Cardinals rookie starter Joe Kelly in Game 3. The Pirates are still in it. But St. Louis showed that it will be formidable this October — especially if its underappreciated star keeps hitting like Babe Ruth.

8 comments
Sammy3
Sammy3

Pirates would have the series won easily  if they would have had a normal hitting first basemen - Twins knew what the were doing when they traded Justin to Pittsburgh - when he get hit by the pitch he has never been the same.  Over 110 at bats for the Bucco's no homers - no pwer  - might as well as go with Gabby or Jone in Game 5 - Justin needs some more medical treatment or specialized help!

JimKirkwood1
JimKirkwood1

I'm a Cardinals fan and I think Beltran is great, but comparing a record like most home runs in the post season with players of today with those of Ruth's time is silly. How many more post season games are played in one season today versus 1927?

raywhit_98
raywhit_98

We don't get the game score until the 3rd paragraph, talk about burying the lead. This is the most egregious of journalistic mistakes. Come on Albert this is SI not bleacher report.

AnthonyP5500
AnthonyP5500

Joe Kelly is also not a rookie.  He was called up in June of 2012, started 16 games, totaling 107 innings of work (more than double the "under 50" that preserves rookie status), and pitched 7.2 in relief appearances during the post season last year.  In fairness though, Puig did play today too, so I guess I can forgive the failure of basic journalism, because that's way more interesting.  It's not like there are only 8 teams playing and someone is paying Albert Chen to actually know stuff about baseball . . . oh wait

Bob Batzer
Bob Batzer

3rd paragraph, 'He has 15 postseason homeruns, tied with Babe Ruth for the most in history' ??????????  Not even close.  He's tied with Babe Ruth with 15, but that's tied for 8th most in history, 29 being the most.  No excuse for writing that when it's so easy to look that up on the internet.

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

Need to win tomorrow to keep up the momentum. Hopefully the Good Lynn will show up instead of the Bad Lynn.

aertzc
aertzc

Kinda hate to waste Waino on an offensive day like today, but I guess I can't complain.