It took less than one half of an inning for the St. Louis Cardinals to push themselves to the 2019 National League Championship Series.
The Cardinals scored 10 runs in the top of the first, chasing Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz on their way to an easy 13-1 win in Game 5 of their NLDS matchup.
Eleven of the first 12 Cardinals hitters reached base in the record-setting first. Their 10 runs were the most ever scored in the first inning of a playoff game and matched the overall postseason record for most runs in a single inning. The last team to score 10 runs in the first was the 2002 Los Angeles Angels.
The Cardinals were able to hit cruise control for the remaining eight and a half innings, with Jack Flaherty pitching six innings of one-run baseball. The club will be making its first NLCS appearance since 2014 and will play either the Washington Nationals or Los Angeles Dodgers, who play later Wednesday night.
St. Louis is looking for its 20th World Series appearance, which would tie for the second-most in MLB history.
2B Kolten Wong: 2-for-3, 2 R, 2 RBI
1B Paul Goldschmidt: 2-for-5, 1 R
RF-3B Tommy Edman: 2-for-5, 2 R, 2 RBI
SS Paul DeJong: 2-for-4, 1 R, 2 RBI
SP Jack Flaherty: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 8 K
CF Ronald Acuna Jr.: 0-for-2, 1 BB
2B Ozzie Albies: 1-for-4
1B Freddie Freeman: 2-for-4
3B Josh Donaldson: 1-for-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI
SP Mike Foltynewicz: 0.1 IP, 3 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 3 BB
Cardinals Offense Comes Alive at Perfect Time
The Cardinals are not what one would call an offensive juggernaut. They finished in the bottom half of the majors in runs, team batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. Their NL Central championship was built on the back of a strong top-to-bottom pitching staff, which ranked inside the top 10 of most major categories.
With Flaherty on the mound, the Cards came into Wednesday with a major advantage in the pitching category. The 23-year-old was the team's leader in ERA and strikeouts during the regular season and was coming off a strong seven-inning outing where he took the loss earlier in the series.
Flaherty never had to worry about a margin for error from the second he took the mound this time around.
Wong had three hits in his first 17 at-bats. He had two on Wednesday.
DeJong was 2-for-14 through the first four games. He was 2-for-4 in Game 5.
Every player, with the exception of Yadier Molina, who struggled all series long, found a way to come through in a full-scale evisceration of the Braves pitching staff.
A 166-game sample tells us this probably isn't replicable, but all it takes is one or two hot nights with the bat to shift an entire series. The Cardinals will need a couple of more of these performances to make it to the World Series, given they'll be a heavy underdog against Washington or Los Angeles.
Folty's Rocky Season Ends in Major Disappointment
It's hard to say no one saw this coming. The 2019 season was one of extreme variance for Foltynewicz, who dealt with elbow pain early in the season and was optioned to Triple-A in June after posting a 6.37 ERA in his first 11 starts.
He did not make another appearance until August but closed the season with a return to his 2018 All-Star form, allowing two or fewer runs in seven of his final eight regular-season starts before throwing seven shutout innings in Game 2.
As far as fan trust goes, Foltynewicz had reached his season apex. That faith lasted all of about a third of an inning, as Folty's struggles with location came back in the biggest start of his career. He walked three batters, hung balls over the middle of the plate when he found the strike zone and looked completely out of sorts before being replaced by Max Fried—who himself wound up getting shelled.
It was the type of performance that could linger and undo all of the positive progress Folty made in the second half of 2019.