By R.B. FALLSTROM, Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) — With the red-clad crowd roaring more loudly with every pitch, Matt Carpenter became more determined — to get a hit and help lead the St. Louis Cardinals back to the World Series.
On Clayton Kershaw's 11th offering, Carpenter lined a doubled to right field. It turned out to be the start of something really big.
Carlos Beltran followed with another key hit in a four-run third inning that stunned the Dodgers ace, Michael Wacha was again magnificent on the mound and St. Louis advanced to its second World Series in three seasons by roughing up Los Angeles 9-0 in Game 6 of the NL championship series Friday night.
"I'm so happy right now. We did it as a team," Beltran said. "We fought hard, we worked hard all season long, and thank God we're here."
The 22-year-old Wacha was selected MVP of the NLCS after throwing 13 2-3 scoreless innings and beating Kershaw twice in the series. The first rookie to win the award since Livan Hernandez in 1997 for the Marlins pitched seven innings of two-hit ball Friday.
"We want to see it a few more times, a couple at least," manager Mike Matheny said.
With four runs in the third and five more in the fifth, the Cardinals quickly removed all the tension surrounding a team that squandered a 3-1 series lead in the NLCS last fall against San Francisco.
Game 1 of the World Series is Wednesday at the winner of the ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers. The Cardinals won their 19th NL pennant and will be trying for their third title since 2006, last winning in 2011.
The 36-year-old Beltran had three hits, drove in two runs and made a spectacular catch in right field as he advanced to the World Series for the first time in his 16-year career.
The glamorous Dodgers, with the second-highest payroll in baseball at $220 million, failed to reach the World Series for the first time since winning it all in 1988.
"Going through spring, the long season, and then it just comes to a crash," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "So, it's disappointing for all of us."
After losing Game 5 in Los Angeles, the Cardinals turned to Wacha once again. The right-hander was even better in outpitching Kershaw for the second time this series.
It was 52 degrees at game time, a 23-degree drop from the Kershaw-Wacha matchup in Game 2 six days earlier, and Kershaw never warmed up.
The lefty wasn't in the mood to talk about a season in which he had a majors-best 1.83 ERA, either.
"If you don't win, what's the point?" Kershaw said. "It doesn't really matter. All this stuff."
The leading NL CY Young Award candidate was knocked out of a start for the first time this season without finishing the fifth.
"I think the first time we faced him he was very tough," Beltran said. "This time he was a little off, but that doesn't mean anything."
Perhaps showing the Cardinals weren't stressed by the possibility of a second straight postseason meltdown, Games 1 and 5 starter Joe Kelly had a post-national anthem staredown against Dodgers reserve outfielder Scott Van Slyke that was broken up by a fed-up home plate umpire Greg Gibson after several minutes.
Kelly blinked first all in good fun but, when it counted, St. Louis wouldn't budge.
"It was just something fun to start the game off," Van Slyke said. "I don't think I've ever talked to Joe."
Beltran followed Carpenter's gritty doubled with an RBI single for a 1-0 lead.
Mattingly thought Carpenter's grinding at-bat was the key.
"From there," Mattingly said, "it just seemed like the flood gates opened ... Took a lot out of him."
With two outs, Yadier Molina added an RBI single, Shane Robinson drove in two runs with a single in his first career postseason start after replacing slumping Jon Jay — and advanced to second base on Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig's first of two errors in the Cardinals' big innings.
The Cuban defector, who stood in the outfield during the eighth inning with his arms crossed, also struck out twice and was booed heartily. Hanley Ramirez, a last-minute addition to the Dodgers' lineup, went 0 for 3 while playing with a broken rib.