(Reuters) - The St. Louis Cardinals advanced to the World Series with a resounding 9-0 win over Los Angeles on Friday as rookie Michael Wacha outpitched Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw to seal the National League Championship Series 4-2.
The Cardinals, who won the most recent of their 11 World Series titles in 2011, claimed their record 19th NL pennant and will face the Boston Red Sox or Detroit Tigers of the American League for the Major League Baseball crown.
St. Louis erupted for four runs in the third when they sent 10 men to the plate and batted around again in the fifth to add five more runs, turning Game Six into a rout and sending their red-clad fans into a handkerchief-waving frenzy.
Wacha extended his brilliant run by shutting the Dodgers down on two hits over seven innings for the win and was named Most Valuable Player of the series. He walked one and struck out five as the Cardinals out-hit Los Angeles 13-2.
The 22-year-old has yielded just one run in his three postseason starts, giving up eight hits in 21 innings while striking out 22 and exhibiting extraordinary poise.
“I was up all night, basically thinking about the game, the anxiety was at the highest,” said Wacha, who also outpitched Kershaw in the Cardinals’ 1-0 Game Two victory. “It was hard to calm myself down to get my sleep.”
Kershaw, who led the National League in earned run average this season for the third year in a row, was roughed up for 10 hits in four-plus innings and charged with seven runs.
The 25-year-old Dodgers lefthander, considered the frontrunner for this season’s Cy Young Award, threw 48 pitches in the third inning alone.
Leading the St. Louis attack, which generated only 12 runs over the first five games, were Carlos Beltran with three hits and two runs batted in, and Shane Robinson, who made the most of a rare start in centerfield by collecting two hits and RBIs.
“We were just saving them up,” joked Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. “I can’t imagine being any more proud.”
WANCHA A ‘JEWEL’
Sloppy fielding and poor decision-making contributed to the Dodgers’ woes.
Young Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig made two errors and another ill-advised throw, pitchers uncorked three wild pitches, second baseman Mark Ellis muffed a chance, and shortstop Hanley Ramirez, suffering from a fractured rib, was unable to dive for grounders that bounced just out of reach.
“It’s disappointing because of all the work that you put in,” said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. “Just trying to put all that together, going through a long season and it comes to a crash.”
Beltran, who has had 12 runs batted in this postseason, lavished praise on rookie sensation Wacha.
“Incredible. He’s a jewel,” said Beltran, a clutch postseason performer over the years who will be making his first trip to the World Series. “That guy has so much talent. You’re going to hear his name for a long time.”
The victory put the Cardinals into the World Series for the fourth time in the last decade and went some way to making up for last year’s NLCS in which the San Francisco Giants came back from 3-1 down in the series to beat the Cardinals, winning the last game by the same 9-0 score.
“We do have to learn from the things that we’ve done in the past,” said Matheny. “The feeling of standing in the rain a year ago and watching San Francisco celebrate, that was a tough day for us. We’ve kind of been talking about that.”
The Cardinals’ World Series opponents will be determined this weekend.
The Red Sox host the Tigers at Fenway Park for Game Six on Saturday and Game Seven, if needed, on Sunday holding a 3-2 edge in the AL Championship Series.
Writing by Larry Fine; Editing by Peter Rutherford