ST. LOUIS -- At the plate, on the bases and in the field, it was not a pleasant night at the office for Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay. Thanks to Carlos Beltran, Jay clocked out with a big smile on his face.
"Today wasn't a good day for me, personally," said Jay, "but we got a big win, and I have to thank Carlos for that."
Beltran's terrific throw home bailed out Jay after a defensive mistake in the 10th inning, and three innings later, Beltan delivered the double that sealed the Cards' 3-2 win over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Friday night.
From a personal standpoint, Jay will not remember the longest NL playoff game in nearly a decade very fondly. He went 0-for-5, stranded four men on base and was already having a hard time before the teams pushed deep into extra innings.
Jay's trouble began in the top of the seventh against Dodgers starter Zack Greinke, with Yadier Molina at first base after a single and the teams tied at 2. Jay was instructed to bunt, but he squared late and struck the baseball too firmly, allowing Greinke to gather it up and throw to second base to retire the lead runner.
Jay was safe at first base, and he broke for second on a pitch that David Freese lined to right field, where rookie Yasiel Puig made a running catch. Without breaking his stride, Puig fired an off-balance throw back to first to double up Jay and end the inning.
"We all know he has a good arm," Jay said with a shrug. "It was just one of those plays where I was out."
There was more trouble for Jay in the top of the 10th, when Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis hit a one-out drive to right-center field. Jay admittedly took a "bad angle," and he chased the ball all the way to the wall while Ellis ran to third.
The Cardinals opted to have closer Trevor Rosenthal, pitching his second inning, intentionally walk Hanley Ramirez to instead face Michael Young, who was batting in the cleanup spot because Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had opted to pinch-run for Adrian Gonzalez two innings earlier.
Young sent a fly ball to the outfield. Jay and Beltran both converged.
"I heard him coming, and he obviously has a 'plus' arm out there, so it was all his," Jay said.
Beltran made the catch and threw home with the game on the line. Ellis lowered a shoulder, but Molina held on and the inning was over.
"I had a little bit of relief," Jay said. "I could finally smile out there after that play."
Typically, the center fielder has priority. Jay did not mind giving way.
"Just watching the game, seeing that play right there, I kind of understood, 'Hey, if he's got a chance to get to the ball, he's going to take it here,'" Jay said. "It was one of those balls where either of us could have caught it, but knowing the situation right there, that's definitely a ball meant for him.'"
"[Beltran] did a good job, [Jay] and him communicating, letting Carlos take that throw," Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter said. "He has the stronger arm. He called it, got in front of it and made a great throw, and it ended up as the play of the game, really."
The schedule left little time to celebrate. After a four-hour, 47-minute Game 1, the series is scheduled to continue Saturday afternoon (4 ET/3 CT on TBS).
"You're into the game the whole time, and as soon as it's over, you can let it all out," Jay said. "Especially after a big win today. That was a big one for us."