The St. Louis Cardinals versus the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Homegrown talent versus a “store-bought” product.
Game 6 of the NLCS.
The scoreboard read 0-0 with one out in the bottom of the third inning.
Unable to score in the prior two innings with a runner in scoring position, St. Louis fans, those at the stadium as well as the ones at home, were getting restless. Was this really happening again? Would they really have endure yet another heart-stopping Game 7? The Birds on the Bat wouldn’t relinquish another 3-1 NLCS lead, now would they?
So, the scene was set. It was time for a heavy-weight battle that will forever be remembered as “The At-Bat” for Cardinal fans throughout the nation.
Kershaw fired 7 fastballs that averaged 93.2 MPH, slung 3 sliders that averaged 4.71 inches of break, and broke off 1 curveball that had 7.54 inches of drop to it. A devastating sequence of pitches from the future Hall-of-Famer. Yet, Carpenter warded off the blows from Kershaw by fouling off 8 of the 11 pitches–deliberately setting up his counter-move. On the 11th pitch, Carpenter delivered his signature knockout blow–a double into the right field corner on a nasty slider down and away in the zone.
There you have it. THE At-Bat.
Nope, no runs scored on the play. The scoreboard still read 0-0 as Carlos Beltran walked up to the plate. Yet, this will go down as one of the most pivotal moments of the entire 2013 NLCS.
Kershaw was rattled. The almighty Kershaw was knocked off his line by Carpenter’s tremendous at-bat. He had just barely evaded damage in the first and second innings, but Carpenter made sure that this would not repeat in the third inning as well.
The rest is history, and it can be read in game recaps all over the internet, but I will highlight some key points. The Cardinal offense made an extraordinary pitcher look rather ordinary when it mattered most. Beltran, doing what he does best, scorched a liner past Mark Ellis at second to score Carpenter–1-0. This would have been enough for the future NLCS MVP, Michael Wacha, but the team did not stop there. Yadier Molina made up for his Game 5 woes, knocking in Beltran on a hanging breaking ball. Shane Robinson then came up with the bases loaded and knocked in two runners himself.
At the end of the third inning, the Cardinals led the Dodgers 4 to 0. They had batted all the way around the order while recording 5 hits and 4 runs.
At this point, Kershaw looked to be just a shell of himself out there on the mound, and it all started because of “The At-Bat.”
The Cardinals will now travel to either Boston or Detroit for the World Series with their ace, Adam Wainwright, on the hill for Game 1.
Until next time…
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