SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — As many times as he gets asked, Cardinals closer Jason Motte still has no perfect answer for how St. Louis found a way to win at Washington after trailing 6-0 and advance to the NL championship series again.
"These guys just prove what big hearts they have and how much they go out there and work their butts off," said Motte, Friday night's winning pitcher in Game 5. "Someone asked me last night how we keep doing it, and I said, 'I don't know, maybe we're just stubborn. We just don't give up.' That's kind of how you have to be."
The San Francisco Giants get it, all right. They've been doing it the same way.
The last two World Series winners sure are showing their championship mettle in mid-October.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny will watch the game again, once things slow down, so he can truly appreciate just what his Cardinals accomplished in beating the Nationals — the team with baseball's best record this season.
San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy doesn't need another look to know how impressive the reigning World Series champions' ninth-inning comeback was for a 9-7 victory in the nation's capital.
Bochy's team had its own remarkable rally that's not quite as fresh as the Cardinals' feat: Three road wins at Cincinnati to advance after dropping the first two games of the division series at home to the Reds.
They will face off in Game 1 of the NLCS on Sunday night at San Francisco's AT&T Park. Left-hander Madison Bumgarner gets the ball for the Giants against 6-foot-5 right-hander Lance Lynn.
"Both teams had their backs against the wall," Bochy said. "It's impressive what the Cardinals did. And, really, if you look at the game we had and the game they had, they were similar. We were up 6-0, barely hung on, and they found a way to get it done. ... I think that says a lot about the two clubs, the character of the clubs and how hard they fight — and it should be a really hard-fought series here."
Bumgarner, a 16-game winner this year, lost Game 2 of the NL division series here to Cincinnati. But the strong left-hander is not one to get rattled, and he gained his share of experience during the Giants' surprising run to the World Series title in 2010 — the first for the franchise since moving West in 1958.
"I felt good last time, things just didn't go my way," Bumgarner said. "That's the way this game is."
While the Giants became the eighth team to erase a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-five series and first in major league history to do it on the road, the Cardinals earned the biggest comeback ever in a winner-take-all postseason game, according to STATS LLC.
"It really hasn't sunk in," Matheny said after an all-night, cross-country trip to the Bay Area. "I see a knockdown-drag out ahead of us. I'm certain Major League Baseball has to be very pleased with the caliber of baseball that's happened so far in this postseason. And I don't see any reason why the excitement wouldn't continue. We're looking at two well-rounded teams."
These clubs have played twice previously in the NLCS, most recently in 2002. The Barry Bonds-led Giants went on to the World Series only to fall short in the decisive Game 7 against the wild-card Angels after coming within six outs of a championship in Game 6.
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