The highlight of the St. Louis Cardinals 2012 season had to be their stirring comeback win over the Washington Nationals in the five-game National League Division Series.
Due to the compressed schedule caused by the addition of the second wild card, the best-of-five Division Series had a one-time change in format. The lower-seeded team hosted the first two games, with the final three at the home of the higher-seeded club.
Busch Stadium was the site of the opener between the Cardinals and the East Division champion Washington Nationals, the team with MLB’s best regular season record, with 98 wins. The Cardinals led 2-1 before Pete Kozma’s eighth-inning error lead to a pair of unearned runs in Washington’s 3-2 win. In his no-decision start, Adam Wainwright struck out 10 in 5 2/3 innings.
Carlos Beltran hit the last two of the Cardinals’ four home runs as ineffective Jordan Zimmermann took the loss in Game 2. The 12-4 rout of the Nationals tied the series at one game apiece. Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso also went deep. Jaime Garcia exited after two innings and was deactivated the next day due to a shoulder injury.
Chris Carpenter pitched scoreless ball into the sixth inning and Kozma delivered a three-run home run as the Cardinals beat the Nationals 8-0 in Game 3, the first of three games in Washington.
Jayson Werth led off the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 4 by blasting Lance Lynn‘s 13th pitch into the left-field stands. The Nationals’ 2-1 jarring walkoff victory sent the NLDS into the deciding Game 5. Kyle Lohse pitched masterfully, allowing the home club just one run on two hits over seven innings.
Behind by six runs early in Game 5, the Cardinals looked to be down and out. They weren’t, as they worked their way back to an amazing 9-7 win to cap off the series. It was the largest comeback ever in a winner-take-all postseason game and reminiscent of the resiliency shown by the World Champion club the year before.
Descalso’s game-tying two-out, two-run single and the go-ahead two-run single from Kozma both came in the ninth inning after the Cardinals were twice down to their last strike. Beltran was on base five times, going 3-for-3 with two walks.
Middle infielders Descalso and Kozma were unlikely offensive heroes in the LDS. Descalso, a .227 hitter during the regular season, topped the Cardinals with seven runs scored and six RBI and tied for the home run lead with two. He posted a slash line of .316/.333/.684/1.017 in the five-game series. Kozma had an OBP of .455 and added five RBI, second-most after Descalso. Beltran batted .444 with a .542 OBP and .944 SLG in the LDS, all tops on the team.
The pitching staff cumulatively held the Nats to a .232 batting average while posting a 2.86 ERA. Lohse allowed one run in seven innings, Chris Carpenter none in 5 2/3 and hard-throwing relievers Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal combined to allow just two baserunners in seven scoreless innings of work.
The Cardinals advanced to face the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series.
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