ST. LOUIS -- Carlos Beltran kept protesting that he's just one player.
Albeit a pretty special one in October.
"Understand this is not about me," Beltran said. "In order for a team to win a ballgame, a lot of things need to happen right, the right way. We have to pitch, we have to play defence, and we have to come through offensively."
Beltran had the last two covered like a blanket in Game 1 of the NL championship series Friday night, giving the St. Louis Cardinals his latest scintillating post-season performance in a 13-inning, 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"Carlos, he's a tough out for us," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
Beltran hit a tying, two-run double in the third inning. Then he took charge on defence, calling centre fielder Jon Jay off the ball before throwing out a runner at the plate from shallow right field in the 10th to keep it even.
"I felt I was going to have a better angle so I called for the ball about five or six times," Beltran said. "And Jon Jay was able to hear me and leave it up to me."
Well past midnight at Busch Stadium, Beltran singled into the right-field corner with one out against Kenley Jansen in the 13th to finish a game that took 4 hours, 47 minutes.
"I tip my hat to Carlos Beltran, he's a pro," Jansen said. "It's my job to get these guys out. I was comfortable with the situation."
Neither team had much time to exhale before Game 2 Saturday afternoon, scheduled to start 14 1-2 hours after Daniel Descalso crossed the plate. It features a marquee pitching matchup -- major league ERA leader Clayton Kershaw vs. Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha, who's flirted with no-hitters his last two starts.
Beltran has 16 home runs, 12 doubles and 34 RBIs in 40 career post-season games, and is hitting .345. He's also scored 42 runs and stolen 11 bases while with the Astros, Mets and Cardinals.
The eight-time All-Star is hoping this year ends with his first trip to the World Series.
"Just fun to watch him do his thing, whether it's offensively, the big throw he made defensively," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
It was the longest post-season game for the Dodgers since the 1916 World Series, when Babe Ruth pitched all 14 innings to lead the Boston Red Sox past Brooklyn.
This one also tied for the longest series opener in post-season history, according to STATS. Boston and Cleveland played 13 innings in their 1995 AL division series, with the Indians winning 5-4.
"You work so hard in the off-season, spring training and regular season to get to this point and we're fortunate to be here," Beltran said.
"That's a preview. Today was a good game and that's what it's all about. They didn't want to lose and we didn't want to lose," he said.
Descalso had a pinch-hit single with one out in the 13th off rookie Chris Withrow, and Matt Carpenter walked. Jansen, usually the Dodgers' closer, relieved and Beltran won it with his hit on a 3-1 count.
The Cardinals remained unbeaten in extra-inning post-season games since dropping the opener of the 1946 World Series to Boston. That said, they're just 4-0 in that span.
Winning pitcher Lance Lynn strengthened his case for a possible Game 4 start with two scoreless innings. Withrow took the loss.
"There were a lot of big outs that both teams got tonight," Mattingly said. "If the rest of the series is like this game, it should be a pretty good one."
The Dodgers had two on in the ninth, 10th and 11th and came up empty. They stranded 11 overall while going 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position. They averaged 6 1-2 runs and batted .333, best ever in an NL post-season series, while taking a four-game division series from the Braves.
Dodgers starter Zack Greinke struck out 10 in eight innings, allowing just four hits. Cardinals starter Joe Kelly left after the sixth with the score 2-all.
Mark Ellis tripled with one out in the Dodgers 10th. After Hanley Ramirez was intentionally walked, Michael Young followed with a fly ball to shallow right field that Beltran caught.
Beltran made a strong, one-hop throw home and Ellis crashed into Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina.
Molina held the ball, but it was hard to tell whether he actually tagged Ellis. On such plays, however, umpires almost always give the benefit to the catcher and call the runner out.
"You've got to go, that's what you do," Ellis said. "They made a great throw, Yadi made a great tag."
The Dodgers put runners at first and second with two outs in the 11th against John Axford. Pinch-hitter Nick Punto, who played for the Cardinals on their 2011 World Series championship team, struck to end the inning.
Young, in the game after cleanup man Adrian Gonzalez was pulled for a pinch-runner in the eighth, got another chance in 12th. With runners on first and second, he grounded into an inning-ending double play against Lynn.
Beltran's double in the third barely eluded centre fielder Andre Ethier.
Slowed by a sore ankle, Ethier made his first start in this post-season. He appeared to mistime his jump just a bit as he banged into the padded wall.
Beltran's two-run double in the third was the only damage against Greinke. He fanned Carpenter, Matt Adams and Pete Kozma twice each and struck out the side in the fifth.
The teams are post-season foes for the first time since a Dodgers sweep in their 2009 division series. It's their first NLCS matchup since 1985, when the Cardinals won in six games behind game-breaking homers from Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark off Tom Niedenfuer.
Kelly left on his own terms after six innings in a 2-all tie, hurt only by Juan Uribe's two-run single in the third. Counting multiple efforts, the Cardinals had five relievers warm but the Dodgers were 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
Kelly got all three outs on strikeouts in the first. The Dodgers left runners on second and third when Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig fanned.
Kershaw started the division series clincher against Atlanta on three days' rest Monday and will be on regular rest in Game 2. The left-hander said the media made a big deal of short rest, but not he nor Mattingly.
Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire got a nice hand when he lined up along the third base line during introductions. So did two other former Cardinals, utility men Skip Schumaker and Punto. There was some booing for Greinke, who referred to Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter as a "phoney" when Greinke was with the Brewers.
NOTES: Carpenter, who entered in a 1-for-29 slump, walked and scored on Beltran's double. ... Greinke's career best is 15 strikeouts for the Royals on Aug. 25, 2009, against Cleveland. ... It was the longest NLCS game since the New York Mets beat Atlanta 4-3 in 15 innings on Robin Ventura's "grand slam-single" in 1999.