Outfielder Carlos Beltran has been his generation's most dominant postseason slugger, but a game-saving throw in Game 1 of the NLCS showed that he's also valuable beyond the batter's box:
The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers were knotted up at 2-2 in the top of the 10th inning when Mark Ellis made a bold decision. The veteran second baseman tested Beltran's arm on a fly ball to right field by attempting to tag up and score. The throw couldn't have been put in a better spot, and catcher Yadier Molina blocked Ellis' path to home plate and applied the tag in time.
Not surprisingly, the sell-out crowd at Busch Stadium was pleased with the result:
Carlos Beltran nails Mark Ellis at the plate. Yadier Molina holds on. And Busch Stadium ERUPTS. #NLCS— MLB (@MLB) October 12, 2013
It's fitting that Beltran and Molina were the principal players responsible for this play.
They've been carrying the Cards through the playoffs. The All-Star switch-hitter contributed three extra-base hits and a .944 OPS during the NLDS, while Molina posted a .929 OPS in that round and masterfully handled the St. Louis pitching staff.
Even before the throw, these two veterans had made their presence felt in the NLCS opener.
Beltran drove in two runs with a third-inning double, which is the only reason the game extended into extra innings. Of course, Molina's incredible talent as a game-caller (particularly when paired with a shaky Joe Kelly) was vital in keeping the Dodgers from pulling ahead again.
Dan Hirsch of Seamheads.com reminds us just how important it is for the home team to start hot in a best-of-seven playoff format:
Game 1 of a 2-3-2 series is a 20% swing. When home team wins, they go on to win series 65% of the time. When they lose, it's just 45%— Dan Hirsch (@DanHirsch) October 12, 2013
This Beltran-Molina play helped keep the Cardinals' hopes alive of getting that all-important first win in the series.
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