ATLANTA — The St. Louis Cardinals turned the diamond into a giant pinball machine, dinging hits all over SunTrust Park.
By the time the Atlanta Braves finally got the third out, it was the most productive first inning in postseason history.
The Cardinals scored 10 runs their first time up and dealt Atlanta another playoff heartbreak, routing the Braves 13-1 in decisive Game 5 of the NL Division Series on Wednesday.
“That was crazy,” said Marcell Ozuna, one of five players who batted twice in the stunning outburst. “We got a good opportunity — and we took it.”
Before many fans had reached their seats, the Cardinals were already booking their plans for the NL Championship Series, where they will face either the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Washington Nationals in a best-of-seven set beginning Friday. Those teams were meeting in their own Game 5 at Dodger Stadium.
It will be St. Louis’ first NLCS trip since 2014.
“We know we can beat anyone at this point,” Kolten Wong said.
For the Braves, it might take a while to get over this debacle.
After pitching seven scoreless innings in a Game 2 win, Mike Foltynewicz retired only one hitter before getting yanked. First baseman Freddie Freeman booted a potential double-play ball that might have limited the damage. The Cardinals scored their final run of the inning on a strikeout — a wild pitch in the dirt that skipped away from catcher Brian McCann.
“We just strung together a bunch of great at-bats,” Wong said.
It was Atlanta’s 10th straight postseason round loss since its last victory 18 long years ago, tying the ignominious mark set by the Chicago Cubs between 1908 and 2003.
Carrying on the tradition that started at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, moved on to Turner Field and is now becoming an annual occurrence at SunTrust Park, it was a visiting team that got to celebrate in the A-T-L.
For the 13th time in 21 postseason appearances since moving to Atlanta, the Braves finished the year with a loss on their home field.
“It was more of a shock than anything,” said Josh Donaldson, whose homer provided the lone Atlanta run. “You don’t expect something like that to happen, especially with how well we played all season.”
Braves did not distribute their traditional red foam tomahawks to fans before Wednesday’s Game 5 of their NL Division Series against the Cardinals following criticism by St. Louis pitcher Ryan Helsley.
The foam cutouts are used when Braves fans perform their Tomahawk Chop chant in games.
The Braves said in a statement the change is “out of respect for the concerns” expressed by Helsley, a Sequoyah High grad who played at Northeastern State and is a member of the Cherokee Nation, who said he finds the chant insulting.
Fans still used the chant with the Cardinals’ first batter, Dexter Fowler, at the plate. It didn’t bring the Braves good luck.
The Braves said they were taking several steps to “reduce the Tomahawk Chop during our in-ballpark presentation today.” The team said it would not play the music that accompanies the chant when Helsey is in the game.
Helsley told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he was insulted by what he saw and heard in Thursday’s series opener.
“I think it’s a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general,” Helsley said.
“Just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual. They are a lot more than that. It’s not me being offended by the whole mascot thing. It’s not. It’s about the misconception of us, the Native Americans, and how we’re perceived in that way, or used as mascots. The Redskins and stuff like that.”