By HAL McCOY
If fans saw the top half of the first inning Wednesday between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves, they saw it all — and then some.
The half-inning lasted longer than Atlanta starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz’s last name. And he last as long as first name.
The Cardinals scored 10 runs in the top of the first, the most first-inning runs ever scored in a Major League post-season game.
St. Louis sent 14 batters to the plate in a half-inning that lasted 26 minutes and the game was over before it began.
They played it out, though, and the Cardinals prevailed, 13-1, to win the National League Division series three games to two.
It all started when Foltynewicz walked leadoff batter Dexter Fowler on a full count.
With afternoon shadows in Sun Trust Park supposedly making it difficult to hit, St. Louis manager Mike Schildt decided to play small ball, play for one run. He had No. 2 hitter Kolten Wong sacrifice bunt Fowler to second base.
Then the sun, the moon and stars collapsed on the Braves’ heads.
Paul Goldschmidt beat an infield hit to shortstop. Marcell Ozuna singled to right field to make it 1-0. Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman, a Gold Glover, made an error on Yadier Molina’s ground ball to fill the bases.
Matt Carpenter walked, forcing in a run and it 2-0. Tommy Edman, 5 for 8 with 12 RBI in bases loaded situations, pulled a two-run double inside the first base bag and it was 4-0.
After Paul DeJong was walked intentionally to refill the bases, Foltynewicz was replaced by Max Freed. He quickly walked opposing pitcher Jack Flaherty, forcing in another run and it was 5-0.
Dexter Fowler doubled home two more (7-0) and Kolten Wong doubled in two more (9-0). Amazingly, Marcell Ozuna struck out but the ball evaded the catcher and Ozuna reached first as the 10th run scored.
Finally, the 14th batter, Yadier Molina grounded out.
To keep it going, the Cardinals scored a run in the second on a triple by Tommy Edman and a double by Paul DeJong, pushing it to 11-0.
They added two more in the third on a run-scoring single by Harrison Bader and a run-scoring single by DeJong.
That’s all the Cardinals would score, but it was 11 more than they needed. The Braves scored their only run on a fourth-inning home run by Josh Donaldson.
While the Braves hit the game’s only home run, the Cardinals produced 13 hits that included four doubles and a triple.
St. Louis starter Jack Flaherty, who ended the season with a 7-2 record and a 0.91 earned run average over his last 15 starts, pitched six innings and gave up one run, four hits, walked one and struck out eight.
As might be expected in this carnage of a game, there was some chippiness. The Braves hit Marcell Ozuna with a pitch and when the Cardinals hit Ronald Acuna Jr., with a pitch, veteran home plate umpire Tom Hallion issued a warning to both teams.
There was no further histrionics as the Braves went away quietly. Maybe the Braves missed that awful ‘Tomahawk Chop’ chant.
As reported by ESPN, the Braves made an effort to curb the chop/chant by not issuing the foam rubber tomahawks they normally place on each seat. The decision was in response to Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley, a member of the Cherokee Nation. He expressed displeasure with the chop during Games 1 and 2 in Atlanta.
“Out of respect for the concerns expressed by Mr. Helsley, we will take several efforts to reduce the Tomahawk Chop during our in-ballpark presentation today,” the Braves said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals move on to the best-of-seven National League Championship Series for the first time since 2014