ST. LOUIS — If Carlos Beltran's two-year stay with the St. Louis Cardinals ends after the postseason, it's been quite a ride.
Beltran's three-run homer in a seven-run third inning Thursday ignited the Cardinals to a 9-1 win over Pittsburgh in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium.
With the national media in tow, the switch-hitting Beltran's Hall of Fame candidacy was a topic of conversation.
The 36-year-old right fielder has a .283 career average with 446 doubles, 358 homers, 1,427 RBIs and 308 stolen bases.
Beltran has excelled in the postseason with 15 homers, which are tied with Babe Ruth for eighth place all-time and rank third among active players behind Derek Jeter (20) and Albert Pujols (18). In 35 career playoff games, he is batting .357 with 28 RBIs.
"This guy's unbelievable. Not just in October, but if you watch this guy play the whole season, the stuff that this guy does is amazing," Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso said. "He's just a great baseball player, he's got good instincts, he knows the game, he's a smart player. I think that's magnified in October."
Second baseman Matt Carpenter said he thought Beltran's mammoth 443-foot homer into the second deck in right field against A.J. Burnett "was completely out of the stadium."
"He killed it," Carpenter said. "It was a great at-bat, good swing."
Descalso doesn't have a Hall of Fame vote and never will, but it's clear that Beltran would have his support to be enshrined.
"The guy's got outstanding numbers," Descalso said. "I've never talked Hall of Fame credentials with him. (But) he's a great player and we're real glad he's over here now."
Beltran's humility stands out every day. A spiritual man, Beltran often credits his faith for his ability to be a top-flight player.
"For me, it's simple," Beltran said. "It's God giving me the opportunity to play in meaningful games. I think as a ballplayer, you always dream to be able to play in postseason games and try to win a World Series.
"There is no other explanation. Just God gave me the opportunity to be in this situation and me being able to come through. But that doesn't really come with nothing. It comes with coming to the ballpark every day and preparing yourself to try to go out and have a good game."
As a teammate, Descalso said Beltran is off the charts.
"He's a great teammate," he said. "He loves talking the game; he loves teaching the younger guys. He's got a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience he's passed on over the last couple of years. He's been outstanding in this clubhouse.
"He's as level as they come from April 1 all the way through the postseason. I don't know what it is about October. He seems like he's an impossible out. But he's the same demeanor from Game 1 through the postseason."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, like Descalso, often refers to Beltran as a teacher. While Beltran seems soft-spoken and sometimes understated around the media, the opposite is true when he is surrounded by teammates hungry for knowledge.
"There are days we have to change our meetings because he's in holding class and we can't stop him," Matheny said. "He gets going and he's starting to teach some of the young players and 45 minutes later, they're still sitting there.
"He's a teacher. I mean, he loves the game. He's passionate about it. He's passionate about teaching his teammates some of the things that he's learned. He's been an incredible, incredible asset to this club, especially helping our young players develop."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.