He was long gone at the end, but St. Louis starter Joe Kelly set the tone for the Cardinals' epic 3-2, 13th-inning win in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series Friday night.
Make that Saturday morning.
"I was definitely excited," Kelly said after the Cardinals' longest postseason game in franchise history. "Yadi (Yadier Molina) came out and told me, 'You've got good stuff, try not to be too amped up right now, just try to make quality pitches.'
"That's what I tried to do. The emotions were flying high."
Kelly held his own against Zack Greinke, matching the Dodger's 15-game winner in the opener of the best-of-seven series.
Kelly gave up two runs on six hits in six innings, walking two and striking out five.
"We knew we were facing a very good pitcher, and we had a lot of faith Joe was going to get the job done," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He fought his way through it, and we had a bunch of other guys step in and pitch some big innings for us as well."
Kelly threw 97 pitches (57 of them strikes) as he kept the Cardinals in a 2-2 stranglehold that lasted seven innings after he left the mound.
"Joe, a great compliment to him, what you say about the good pitchers, (they) are able to get it done when they don't have their best stuff," Matheny said. "And Joe didn't have his best stuff.
"Overall he got the job done without being real, real sharp. He was able to minimize the damage."
Kelly helped out with the bat, too, collecting a two-out single to spark the Cards' game-tying rally in the third. The hit preceded Matt Carpenter's walk and Carlos Beltran's two-run double.
But he was in trouble constantly on the mound, allowing two runners in the first, two more in the second, two runs in the third, and a runner in each of the fifth and sixth innings.
Except for his third-inning hiccup, Greinke was dominating -- allowing the two runs on four hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts in eight innings. He threw 104 pitches, 68 of them strikes.
But he gave up the hit by Kelly and walked Carpenter -- with one hit in 20 at-bats at that point in the postseason -- before Beltran made it a tie game.
Lasting impressions of Game 1:
* Three innings before Beltran's game-winning single in the 13th, he made a brilliant defensive play to get the Cards out of the 10th inning. He waved off Jon Jay on Michael Young's bid for a sacrifice fly and retired Mark Ellis with a perfect throw to the plate. The 9-2 double play got the Cards out of a first-and-third predicament after Ellis' one-out triple and a walk to Hanley Ramirez.
* Kelly got what he deserved in a two-run third, losing his location to load the bases before Juan Uribe's two-out, two-run single. Kelly was just-about-this-close to escaping unscathed when he got Yasiel Puig to hit into a 1-2 forceout at home for the second out, but then gave up Uribe's clean single to center.
* Matheny sent an interesting message to his troops when he brought the infield in with a runner at third and one out in the Dodgers' third. The message? The Cardinals had to try to cut down the runner at third or risk falling behind 1-0 to Greinke; Kelly made the point moot by walking the next two Dodgers hitters, putting the fielders at double-play depth. And none of that mattered when Uribe put the Cards in a 2-0 hole.
*By the time the Cardinals got their first baserunners -- Kelly, Carpenter and Beltran in the third --the Dodgers had two runs, four hits, two walks, a hit batsman and a couple others reach base on fielders' choices ... nine different baserunners in all. And yet Beltran's one swing of the bat made it 2-2; the Cards got their runs in a span of five minutes, after the Dodgers had Kelly scrambling for his life.
* The Cards continue to get two-out runs this postseason, with the latest example Beltran's hit in the third. It's a continuation of Game 5 of the NLDS, when four of the Redbirds' six runs came on two-out hits. For all of the NLDS, seven of the Cards' 20 runs scored with two out.
* Missed Whitey Herzog and Bruce Sutter in the collection of Hall of Famers at home plate before the game. But Cards fans got their customary postseason look at Red Schoendienst, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith and Bob Gibson. And they got an encore lap from the Clydesdales, who took two trips around the Busch Stadium field instead of their customary solo trek.
Joe Ostermeier, chairman of the St. Louis chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, has written about the Cardinals for the Belleville News-Democrat since their playoff run in 1985. He can be reached at (618) 239-2512, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.