ST. LOUIS — Carlos Beltran blasted two home runs to power the St. Louis Cardinals over the Washington Nationals 12-4 on Monday and level their Major League Baseball playoff series.
Deadlocked 1-1 in a best-of-five quarter-final stage showdown, the teams will travel to Washington on Tuesday for games on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday if necessary.
“You can’t say enough about how our whole team bounced back,” Cardinals leadoff hitter Jon Jay said. “Now game three is the biggest game of the year.”
The Cardinals-Nationals winner will face either Cincinnati or San Francisco in a best-of-seven National League championship series to decide a berth in the World Series final.
One day after neither team’s batters could manage more than a single in a 3-2 Washington triumph, the sluggers combined to produce six homers.
Washington opened the scoring in the second inning when Ian Desmond raced home from second base on a single by Jordan Zimmermann, but the Cardinals seized the lead for good by scoring four runs in their half of the inning.
Allen Craig scored on a David Freese double and Daniel Descalso followed with a single to bring in Yadier Molina from third. Freese scored on a ground out by Skip Schumaker. Jay singled to score Descalso and St. Louis led 4-1.
Craig smacked a solo homer just inside the left-field line in the third inning, boosting the Cardinals’ edge, and Descalso smacked a homer over the right-centerfield wall in the fourth to give St. Louis a 6-1 advantage.
A fielding error by Washington’s Danny Espinosa later in the fourth allowed another Cardinals run across the plate, but the Nationals pulled within 7-3 in the fifth on back-to-back solo homers by Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche.
Beltran blasted a solo homer in the sixth for an 8-3 St. Louis advantage but Washington pulled back a run in the seventh when Jayson Werth scored from third base on a Zimmerman sacrifice fly.
The Cardinals answered with four runs in the eighth. Jay tripled in a run and Beltran followed by smacking a homer to left field.
An error by Washington outfielder Michael Morse on a ball hit by Craig allowed Matt Holliday to score from second base with the final run.