Updated with more information at 1 a.m. on Oct. 10, 2019.
ATLANTA — The St. Louis Cardinals turned the diamond into a giant pinball machine, dinging hits all over SunTrust Park. By the time the Atlanta Braves finally got the third out, it was the most productive first inning in postseason history.
The Cardinals scored 10 runs their first time up at the plate and dealt Atlanta another playoff heartbreak, routing the Braves 13-1 on Wednesday in the decisive Game 5 of their National League Division Series.
"That was crazy," said St. Louis left fielder Marcell Ozuna, one of five players who batted twice in the stunning outburst. "We got a good opportunity — and we took it."
Before many fans had reached their seats, the Cardinals were already booking their plans for the NL Championship Series, where they will face either the Washington Nationals in a best-of-seven set that starts Friday. The Nationals rallied to win Game 5 of their NLDS 7-3 in 10 innings late Wednesday night.
It will be the Cardinals' first NLCS appearance since 2014.
"We know we can beat anyone at this point," Kolten Wong said.
It might take the Braves a while to get over this debacle. After pitching seven scoreless innings Friday in a Game 2 win, Mike Foltynewicz retired only one hitter before getting yanked. First baseman Freddie Freeman booted a potential double-play ball that might have limited the damage. The Cardinals scored their final run of the inning on a strikeout — a wild pitch in the dirt that skipped away from catcher Brian McCann, who announced his retirement after the game.
"We just strung together a bunch of great at-bats," Wong said.
It was Atlanta's 10th straight postseason series loss since its most recent victory 18 long years ago, tying the ignominious mark set by the Chicago Cubs between 1908 and 2003.
Carrying on the tradition that started at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, moved on to Turner Field and is now becoming an annual occurrence at SunTrust Park, it was a visiting team that got to celebrate in the Georgia capital. The Cardinals broke out T-shirts and caps, hopped around in the middle of the infield and gathered on the pitcher's mound for a team portrait with the video board in center field looming as a backdrop.
For the 13th time in 21 postseason appearances since moving to Atlanta, the Braves finished the year with a loss on their home field.
"It was more of a shock than anything," said third baseman Josh Donaldson, whose fourth-inning homer provided the lone Atlanta run. "You don't expect something like that to happen, especially with how well we played all season."
The Cardinals batted around and got more than halfway through their order a second time before the Braves even came to the plate.
Tommy Edman, Dexter Fowler and Wong all had two-run doubles as St. Louis equaled the highest-scoring inning in MLB postseason history, a record set by the Philadelphia Athletics against the Chicago Cubs in the 1929 World Series. It was matched by the Detroit Tigers (1968 World Series against St. Louis), the Angels (2002 ALCS against Minnesota) and, now, the Cardinals.
No team had ever scored 10 runs in the very first inning of a postseason game. It was the first time the Braves franchise has allowed that many opening-inning runs in any game since they were in Boston on July 2, 1925, against the Brooklyn Robins.
The Cardinals made several changes after their 10-spot in what might have been the first set of defensive moves ever made by a team before its opponent had batted. There was no need to worry about any more offense with budding ace Jack Flaherty on the mound, coming off one of the great second halves by a starting pitcher in baseball history.
"We took the crowd out of it," Fowler said. "We knew Folty would try to get ahead of us. We were trying to get some good pitches to hit. It was a little easier to see the ball today."
St. Louis manager Mike Shildt let the 23-year-old Flaherty throw 104 pitches over six innings, surrendering four hits for the first postseason win of his blossoming career. Flaherty loaded the bases in the fifth after drilling Ronald Acuña Jr. with a fastball, but he induced an inning-ending groundout from Freeman.
This one, though, will long be remembered for what happened before Flaherty even took the mound.
Foltynewicz, who didn't walk anyone in Game 2, started ominously with a walk to Fowler. Wong followed with a sacrifice bunt — the only hitter Foltynewicz retired.
Paul Goldschmidt reached on an infield hit, and the crowd stirred nervously when Marcell Ozuna lined another single to right to bring home the first run.
Then, the play that essentially finished off the Braves. Yadier Molina drilled a one-hopper to first that Freeman likely would have turned into an inning-ending double play if he made the scoop. Instead, everyone was safe when the ball deflected off his glove and rolled slowly toward second base to leave the bases loaded.
Said Freeman: "This one is on me."
Matt Carpenter walked to force in a run and Edman ripped a two-run double to make it 4-0. After Paul DeJong was handed an intentional walk to reload the bases, Atlanta manager Brian Snitker emerged from the dugout to call in 17-game winner Max Fried.
Flaherty drew another bases-loaded walk, and Fowler sent a two-run double down the left-field line to make it 7-0. Wong followed with yet another two-run double.
Wong tagged and hustled to third on Goldschmidt's lineout to right. Ozuna appeared to end the inning when he flailed at a ball in the dirt for strike three, but McCann couldn't corral the wild pitch. The catcher fell down picking the ball up near the backstop and threw late to first from his backside while Wong sped home.
McCann, from Duluth High School in the Atlanta area, played his first nine MLB seasons with the Braves. After three seasons with the New York Yankees and two with the Houston Astros — he won a World Series with them two years ago — McCann returned to Atlanta to renew a friendship with Snitker that began in the minors.
"It's sad but it's time," the 35-year-old catcher said softly in the somber Atlanta clubhouse as he made his announcement. "I had a long career. Fifteen years is a long time, catching every day. I got to play in my hometown."