Descalso, Cards stun Nationals in Game 5

St. Louis Cardinals' Daniel Descalso (33) celebrates with teammate David Freese after both scored...

St. Louis Cardinals' Daniel Descalso (33) celebrates with teammate David Freese after both scored against the Washington Nationals on a 2 RBI single by Pete Kozma in the ninth inning during Game 5 of their MLB NLDS baseball series in Washington, October 12, 2012. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:39 PM ET

WASHINGTON, D.C. - It was as improbable as it was unbelievable.

Trailing 6-0 after the third inning against the upstart Washington Nationals, the never-say-die St. Louis Cardinals mounted a comeback for the ages that ended in a stunning 9-7 victory in the fifth and deciding game of their Division Series.

The Cardinals will now fly to San Francisco to face the Giants in the first game of the National League Championship Series beginning Sunday.

Leading 6-0, it looked like it would be a Washington cakewalk.

But it wasn’t, as the Cards chipped away as they scored one in the fourth, two more in the fifth and a solo run in the seventh to make it a 6-4 Washington lead through seven.

In the eighth, the Cards Daniel Descalso stunned the crowd when he led off the inning with a solo home run against reliever Tyler Clippard.

The lead had shrunk to a single run.

In the Nats eighth, Kurt Suzuki would provide some breathing room as with runners on the corners and two out, he singled in their seventh run padding the lead to two runs.

Even that wasn’t enough.

In the ninth, against the meat of the St. Louis order, closer Drew Storen gave up a leadoff double to Carlos Beltran but got Matt Holliday on a chopper to third.

With Beltran at third, Storen struck out Allen Craig and then walked Yadier Molina and David Freese to load the bases and raise the angst level to critical mass.

That brought Descalso to the plate and on the first pitch he banged a single up that middle that ticked off the glove of shortstop Ian Desmond scoring two runs to tie the game.

After Descalso stole second, Pete Kozma singled to right to drive in two more runs and put the Cards into a 9-7 lead.

The crowd was absolutely stunned.

The result was simply heartbreaking for the Nationals.

“I just told them, you know, it was nothing to hang your head about,” Washington manager Davey Johnson said. “It was a great year. We overcame a lot of problems. We proved our worth and we just need to let this be a lesson and have some — learn from it, have more resolve, come back and carry it a lot further.”

Earlier this week St. Louis manager was asked about the resiliency of his team.

“I think that’s a great compliment to our guys, and I think that’s a result of their character,” Mike Matheny said. “I’ve said this before: You mix a team that has character and talent, it’s a tough force to stop.

“Character is developed through the adversity, and the adversity seemed to start off in spring training when we do lose a (Chris) Carpenter, and then a Lance Berkman goes down, and all of the change that happened since the 2011 season.

“There were plenty of excuses for these guys to take. They have intentionally decided not to go the route of the excuse, just come out and play the game.

They have done a very good job of just staying very consistent, and that’s a sign of good leadership inside of that clubhouse.”

That resolve paid off in spades for the defending World Series champs.

In the opening three innings, though, everything went the Nationals’ way.

It took all of seven pitches from St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright for the Nats to power into a 3-0 lead.

Jayson Werth, whose home run leading off the ninth on Thursday powered the Nationals to a 2-1 victory, got it started for Washington in the bottom of the first with a double into the left-field corner.

Harper, hitless in his past two games, then collected his first post-season RBI with a triple off the wall in centre.

The crowd was still cheering Harper’s hit when Ryan Zimmerman connected on a 1-0 pitch and drove the ball into the seats in centre to zoom the Nats into a 3-0 lead.

Harper connected for his first post-season home run leading off the third, an inning that also saw a two-run homer by Michael Morse that chased Wainwright.

Then the Cardinals showed their mettle.

“We’ve got a lot of veterans in this clubhouse that have been in big spots before and have lost games and know how to bounce back,” Descalso said following Thursday’s loss. “We’ve done a good job of that lately, and we’re going to try to do it again.”

They did it again with Descalso playing a huge role.

Gio Gonzalez made his second start of the series for the Nationals and it was another up-and-down performance as in Game 1 when he had trouble finding the plate. The left-hander walked seven batters in that game and it was miracle that the Nats pulled it out 3-2.

On Friday, Gonzalez allowed one run and three hits over the opening four innings but ran into control issues in the fifth allowing two more runs.

The Cards loaded the bases against him with none out on a double, single and walk.

Gonzalez got Jon Jay to pop up but on a 2-2 pitch to Carlos Beltran he uncorked a wild pitch allowing Daniel Descalso to score. Gonzalez eventually walked Beltran to re-load the bases but came back to induce Matt Holliday to hit a tapper back to him and he got the force at the plate.

However, a third walk of the inning, this one to Allen Craig, brought in another run to make it 6-3. Gonzalez escaped further problems when Yadier Molina flied out to right to end the inning.

The Cardinals, though, were inching closer and had gained some hope.

Then came the four-run ninth and in Washington it was as gut-wrenching a loss as there can be.


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