The League Division Series has always been Major League Baseball’s red-haired post-season stepchild. After all, the series is just five games instead of seven and fans have to search for the games, as they are often held at odd times and not televised on the major networks.
As part of the second-tier status of the LDS, Major League Baseball does not see fit to name Most Valuable Players for the series, unlike in the League Championship Series and World Series.
The Cardinal Nation is once again happy to step into the void, naming St. Louis Cardinals right-handed starting pitcher Adam Wainwright The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com National League Division Series Most Valuable Player for 2013.
Our LDS MVP history
I first decided to do something about this need in 2005, when I created our version of the NLDS MVP award, giving it to Reggie Sanders. The veteran outfielder drove in an amazing ten runs in the Cardinals’ three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres.
The idea really gained traction the next year. Then-assistant general manager John Mozeliak of the Cardinals was suspected of providing several of the club’s free agent signees the sleeves out of his vest - including bonus clauses in the players’ contracts for an award that did not and still does not formally exist.
With creative thinking like that, it is no wonder Mozeliak soon moved up the ladder and has become one of MLB’s best general managers.
After making a big deal about the NLDS MVP award in the spring of 2006, I bestowed our own version upon Ron Belliard that fall. The second baseman was only briefly a Cardinal, having signed his 2006 contract with the Indians, so he apparently had no LDS MVP clause.
It did not matter. Belliard hit .462 and made several strong defensive plays as the Cards eliminated San Diego in four games on their way to the World Championship.
In 2009, when the Cardinals were dispatched most painfully in the NLDS by Los Angeles in three straight games, I did not give an MVP award. After all, I didn’t want to write about the Dodgers.
The story was once again much better in 2011 as the Cardinals defeated the 102-win Philadelphia Phillies in a hard-fought five-game LDS. Faced with two consecutive elimination games, the Cards took both.
The culmination was our LDS MVP Chris Carpenter’s three-hit complete game shutout at Philadelphia. The veteran right-hander led the Cards to a 1-0 victory in an epic battle with another former Cy Young Award winner, Roy Halladay.
The 2012 NLDS was sparked by an unlikely hero, second baseman Daniel Descalso. Despite having hit just .227 in the regular season, the 25-year-old led the Cardinals in RBI, runs scored and tied for the lead in home runs during the LDS. He scored seven runs, launched two homers, drove in six with a slash line of .316/.333/.684/1.017 in the five-game series.
The 2013 winner
Wainwright opened and closed the series with wins, both at home, raising his perfect career post-season record to 5-0. In the winner-take-all Game 5, the right-hander scattered eight hits, dominating the Pirates in the complete-game victory. Wainwright allowed a run on three hits in seven innings in Game 1 and drew a full-count walk that opened the team’s seven-run third-inning offensive burst.
Over his 16 innings, Wainwright yielded just two runs for a 1.13 ERA. The 32-year-old scattered 11 hits, walked just one and struck out 15. The Pirates batted a collective .196 against The Cardinal Nation’s choice as the NLDS Most Valuable Player.
Other Cardinals with notable LDS performances
Carlos Beltran’s mammoth three-run blast was important in Game 1 and he went on to hit a second home run. The right-fielder led St. Louis with six RBI in the five games despite batting just .222.
Matt Holliday’s two-run home run was the offensive difference in Game 4 as the left-fielder batted .300 over the five games. Game 4 winning pitcher Michael Wacha took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in a masterful performance during which he yielded one hit, two walks and fanned nine.
David Freese raised his LDS average to .188 on the game-changing two-run homer in Game 5. His four RBI in the series was second to Beltran. Later in Game 5, Matt Adams repeated the two-run home run feat for important insurance runs and batted .316 overall.
Pete Kozma came through when called upon with four hits in 10 at-bats and two stellar defensive plays in Game 5. Despite batting just .188, Jon Jay paced the Cards in walks with four and runs scored with five, doing both ahead of Freese’s key Game 5 blast.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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