ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals quickly gathered in their clubhouse. But before popping open any champagne, before covering themselves in rivers of Budweiser, they made sure everyone in uniform had made it back from the celebration on the field.
Only then, with all of his teammates gathered around him, did Carlos Beltran begin.
"Let's get it done!'' Beltran said Friday night after the Cardinals thrashed the Dodgers, 9-0, to win the NLCS in six games.
For the 19th time, the Cardinals will represent the NL in the World Series. And for the first time, Beltran will play in the Fall Classic, a fitting reward for years of postseason heroics. "This has been a dream come true,'' said the former Met, who has become a key Cardinal.
At the plate, he finished 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. In the field, he robbed Juan Uribe of an extra-base hit. And on the mound, 22-year-old Michael Wacha conjured up some Beltran-like heroics of his own, allowing two hits in seven innings.
Just 18 months ago, he was pitching for Texas A&M. Friday night, he was collecting the NLCS MVP award. He lowered his postseason ERA to 0.43, having allowed one run and eight hits in 21 innings against the Pirates and Dodgers. "Whenever they put up nine runs, it makes my job a lot easier," said Wacha, who beat Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw twice in this series.
Wacha embodied a Cardinals team that overwhelmed the glitz and glamour of the Dodgers and their $230-million cast of superstars. With their season on the line, the Dodgers cracked in spectacular fashion.
Kershaw likely will win his second Cy Young Award but looked overmatched, allowing seven runs and 10 hits before being pulled with none out in the fifth.
Yasiel Puig committed three costly defensive blunders, which stoked lingering criticism about his fundamentals despite his other-worldly talent. He was booed mercilessly, becoming the de facto symbol of complete defeat against the Cardinals, who began their romp in the third by blitzing Kershaw for four runs.
Matt Carpenter fouled off eight straight pitches before doubling to right. Beltran followed with an RBI single and advanced to second on a poor throw by Puig. Yadier Molina's two-out single made it 2-0.
David Freese singled and Matt Adams walked on a fastball that appeared to catch the lower portion of the strike zone. Kershaw yelled at plate umpire Greg Gibson, but it did little good.
Shane Robinson's two-run single put the Dodgers in a 4-0 hole. With an accurate throw, Puig might have nabbed Freese at the plate, but his throw sailed over the head of A.J. Ellis, the first of Puig's two errors.
Kershaw was chased in the Cardinals' five-run fifth, sending a wave of glee through the crowd of 46,899. Soon they had even more reason to celebrate. As a chilly rain fell, fireworks streaked across the sky and the Cardinals mobbed one another in front of the mound.
A season ago, they seized a three-games-to-one NLCS lead over the Giants, only to lose three straight games. Against the Dodgers, the Cardinals avenged that epic postseason failure. Said Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr.: "We've turned the page on last year.''