Kozma helps rally Cardinals
BY HOWARD FENDRICH Associated Press
Saturday, October 13, 2012
10/13/12 at 4:53 AM
Related story: Sabathia, Yankees hold off Orioles.
WASHINGTON - Doesn't matter how bad things look for the St. Louis Cardinals. Trailing by a bunch, down to their last strike, they simply stay calm and do what it takes to win.
Erasing an early six-run hole in Game 5 slowly but surely, the defending World Series champion Cardinals got a tying two-out, two-run single from Daniel Descalso and a go-ahead two-run single from Pete Kozma in the ninth inning and came all the way back to beat the Washington Nationals 9-7 Friday night and win their NL division series.
It was the largest comeback ever in a winner-take-all postseason game, according to STATS LLC. No other club in this sort of ultimate pressure situation had come back from more than four down.
First-year manager Mike Matheny and the wild-card Cardinals, the last team to clinch a playoff spot this year, will open the NL championship series at San Francisco on Sunday.
Down 7-5 with two outs in the ninth against Nationals closer Drew Storen, the Cardinals twice were a strike away from losing. But Storen walked both of those batters, Yadier Molina and David Freese, setting the stage for the unheralded Descalso and Kozma - Nationals manager Davey Johnson even called the rookie "Cosmos" before Game 4 - to come through.
When Cardinals closer Jason Motte got Ryan Zimmerman to pop out to second base a half-hour past midnight, the Cardinals streamed from the visiting dugout for a rather muted celebration, all in all.
This was nothing new to them.
Over the past two years, St. Louis is 6-0 when facing elimination, including victories in Games 6 and 7 of the 2011 World Series against Texas.
Down to their last strike in the Fall Classic a year ago, trailing by the exact same 7-5 score, the Cardinals rallied in Game 6 and then took the championship in what turned out to be the final year with the club for slugging first baseman Albert Pujols and then-manager Tony La Russa. Now Matheny, who got the Cardinals into the playoffs as the second NL wild-card team on the next-to-last day of the regular season, has them back in the NLCS.
And to think: Washington, which won the NL East and led the majors with 98 wins, got off to as good a start as possible Friday.
Seven pitches, three runs. Just like that, Jayson Werth's double, Bryce Harper's triple and Zimmerman's homer got the hosts jump-started in their first Game 5.
That opening outburst, plus a big third inning highlighted by the 19-year-old Harper's homer, made it 6-0.
St. Louis was not about to go gently into the night, though. The Cardinals chipped away, chipped away.
Suddenly, it was 6-4. Descalso's homer made it 6-5 in the eighth. And a four-run ninth completed the reversal.
NLDS: cardinals win series 3-2
Cardinals vs. Nationals
1. Washington 3, St. Louis 2 Nats come from behind in Game 1
2. St. Louis 12, Washington 4 Cards shell Jordan Zimmerman
3. St. Louis 8, Washington 0 Carpenter, Kozma lead rout
4. Washington 2, St. Louis 1 Werth hits walkoff home run
5. St. Louis 9, Washington 7 Cards come back from big deficit
Games 1 and 2 in St. Louis, 3-5 in Washington
Game 1: At San Francisco
7:15 p.m. Sunday
Owasso native Pete Kozma singles in the go-ahead runs in the ninth inning early Saturday in Washington. PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/AP