ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers and Cardinals have met more than 2,000 times in the regular season and only three wins separate them.
They've played 13 games in the postseason and the Cardinals hold a 7-6 edge. And the Dodgers have been to the playoff 27 times, once more than St. Louis.
The point is, the teams have been pretty even for a long time. So it was really no surprise that their first game in the National League Championship Series started Friday and dragged into Saturday before the Cardinals emerged victorious, 3-2, on Carlos Beltran's 13th-inning run-scoring single.
That Beltran won the game should be no more surprising than the fact it took 4 hours 47 minutes to finish it. Not only did the Cardinals' outfielder drive in all three St. Louis runs, but in doing so he padded some of the best statistics in postseason history.
Beltran started the series with a playoff slugging percentage of .761, the highest in postseason history, while his on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1.214 is best for players with at least 50 playoff at-bats. With two home runs in the division series he moved past Babe Ruth into eighth place with 16 career homers. And with his three RBIs on Friday -- the final coming when he lined a 3-1 pitch from Kenley Jansen into the right-field corner to score Daniel Descalso from second base -- he has 34 runs batted in in 40 postseason games.
"I try not to keep up with the numbers because when you try to keep up with the numbers, you could get caught out there trying to do a lot of bad things and trying to look for homers and trying to change your approach," said Beltran, whose walk-off hit was his fourth postseason game-winning RBI. "I'm aware of what I have done. When you come through and you're able to help the team win, that's what it's all about.
"At the end of the day, this is not about me. This is about the team."
But Beltran doesn't just hit like Ruth, he throws like him too. In the 10th inning his one-hop throw from right field cut down Mark Ellis, representing the go-ahead run, at the plate.
The Dodgers had runners on the corners with one out when Michael Young drove a ball to right-center field. Center fielder John Jay had a bead on it but Beltran -- who had a better throwing angle and a better throwing arm -- called Jay off, made the catch and then got off a perfect throw to catcher Yadier Molina, who tagged Ellis to end the inning.
"I called (for) the ball about five or six times," Beltran said. "Once I caught it, I was hoping to make a good throw to home."
Before any of that, though, Beltran erased a 2-0 Dodgers lead with a two-out, two-run double off the center-field wall in the third. So by the time he ended the game 10 innings later, Beltran had two of his team's seven hits, drove in all of their runs and made the defensive play of the game.
"One of the best postseason performances I've ever seen," said Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny.
Added the Dodgers' Don Mattingly: "If the rest of the series is like this game, it should be a pretty good one."
The game was the longest in Dodgers postseason history since 1916, when Ruth of the Boston Red Sox pitched a 14-inning complete game to beat a team then known as the Brooklyn Robins.
(c)2013 Los Angeles Times
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services