ST. LOUIS — Carlos Beltran's long wait ended Friday.
Beltran, 36, was 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs as the St. Louis Cardinals dusted off the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-0 in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series 4-2.
Beltran earned his first trip to the World Series, which begins Wednesday. The Cardinals' raucous postgame celebration didn't begin until after the beloved Beltran made a brief speech that ended with the words, "Let's get it done."
"I'm really excited for him," left fielder Matt Holliday said of Beltran, who has batted .331 with 37 RBIs in 45 career postseason games. "I think everybody last year was disappointed that he didn't get a chance to make it to the World Series, so I'm excited for him."
Catcher Yadier Molina disdains talking about himself, but he was more than open to discussing what the importance of getting Beltran to his first Fall Classic.
"Finally," Molina said. "He deserves it. I'm so happy for him because he's a great teammate, a great guy, a great human being, a great player. I'm so happy for him. We did it just for him."
The Dodgers were cooked after the Cardinals' four-run outburst in the third against Clayton Kershaw. Beltran's single scored Matt Carpenter, who doubled after an 11-pitch at-bat, to make it 1-0.
"That AB turned the game," Cardinals third baseman David Freese said of Carpenter's role in the big inning, which contributed to Kershaw's pitch count swelling from 33 to 81.
Molina's RBI single made it 2-0 and "Sugar" Shane Robinson, who started in center for Jon Jay, grounded a two-run single.
It was all the support needed by rookie right-hander Michael Wacha, the series MVP. Wacha, 22, stymied the Dodgers on two hits in seven innings, walking one and striking out five.
In his last four starts, three in the postseason, Wacha is 4-0 with a 0.31 ERA. He has allowed nine hits in 29 2/3 innings, with six walks and 31 strikeouts.
"He's incredible," Beltran said. "Wacha, since he joined the ballclub, all he's done is give us an opportunity to win ballgames. You guys are going to hear a lot from that kid because that kid is very special.
"Being able to shut down an offense like the Dodgers have, being able to shut down an offense like the Pirates have, it's unbelievable. The kid is a horse. He wants to be there. It's great to watch a young kid being able to come through like that."
Wacha wasn't around last season when the Cardinals blew a 3-1 lead in the NLCS and lost to San Francisco. But he heard about it.
"I kind of took it in my own hands, where I wasn't going to let that happen this year," Wacha said. "Our offense didn't let it happen, either. It was a lot of fun to watch them out there perform like they did."
The Dodgers never could figure out Wacha.
"We haven't solved that riddle yet," Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly said. "He's a guy with the big fastball, good curveball and a change. He's been really good. He's been tough against us."
Molina will be playing in his fourth World Series.
"It never gets old," he said. "It's a good feeling. It's good to be in this position right now. Hopefully, we've got four more games to go and can finish strong."
Freese, the MVP of the NLCS and World Series in 2011, echoed Molina.
"It's always news, it's always refreshing," Freese said.
"It's the second time, obviously, that I've been in the World Series, but it was an unbelievable time playing behind Michael Wacha," Freese continued. "He's a guy you draft in the first round and you expect him to come up and succeed. This quickly at this stage? I don't know. But he sure showed off and gave us a chance to win."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he was taken aback by the on-the-field celebration after the game. Matheny wasn't expecting being on stage before 46,899 rowdy, red-clad fans.
But he wasn't complaining.
"I didn't expect a podium out there," he said. "I didn't know we were going to do that. It kind of caught me off-guard. But how great is it to be able to do something like that in front of 40-some thousand that stuck around and have been there for us all season long? They deserved to see something like that."
Now it's on to the next step. The Cardinals, who have won 19 NL pennants, are shooting for their 12th World Series title.
"We just want to win," Matheny said. "It's nice to win the National League championship and hopefully we can take it one step further and bring a World Championship to this city."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.