(Reuters) - Carlos Beltran played a starring role for the St Louis Cardinals as the hosts out-lasted the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 in a 13-inning marathon to claim the opener of the best-of-seven National League Championship Series on Friday.
After almost five hours of action, Beltran lined a single to right off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to score Daniel Descalso and end the taut contest in the bottom of the fourth extra inning.
The right-fielder, who has made a habit of rising to the occasion in the postseason, also drove in the Cardinals' first two runs in the third inning and kept the Dodgers from taking the lead in the 10th by throwing out a runner at the plate.
"Today was a good game," Beltran said in an interview after his winning hit and the Cards' celebration on the diamond as their red-clad fans rejoiced in the stands. "That's what it's all about. We didn't want to lose, they didn't want to lose."
St Louis used seven pitchers in the game, with Lance Lynn earning the win. Los Angeles, who will bemoan a number of wasted scoring opportunities in the late innings, used six.
The game evolved into a pitchers' duel between Zack Greinke of the Dodgers and St Louis starter Joe Kelly, with each team scoring a pair of runs in the third inning and nothing more until the climax.
The Dodgers drew first blood in the third when Juan Uribe delivered a two-out, two-run single up the middle off Kelly with the bases loaded for a 2-0 lead.
St Louis responded in their half when Kelly singled for the first hit off Greinke and Matt Carpenter walked before Beltran drove them both in with a double off the fence in right-center over the outstretched glove of center-fielder Andre Ethier.
Kelly lasted six innings, giving up six hits and two walks while striking out five.
Greinke went eight innings in a sterling performance, yielding just four hits with one walk and 10 strikeouts, but Los Angeles stranded 11 runners on base and hit just 1-for-10 with men in a scoring position.
Their best chance was thwarted by Beltran in the 10th.
Second baseman Mark Ellis laced a one-out triple off Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal past lunging center-fielder John Jay to set up the scoring threat.
After an intentional walk to Hanley Ramirez, Michael Young hit a fly to right field that was corralled by Beltran, who unleashed a one-bounce, bullet throw that landed in catcher Yadier Molina's mitt well before Ellis arrived at the plate.
Young, who came in to play first after Dodgers manager Don Mattingly opted to use a pinch-runner for Adrian Gonzalez in the eighth, also bounced into a double-play with men on first and second and one out in the 12th to end that chance.
In the deciding 13th, Descalso blooped a single to center while pinch-hitting for pitcher Lynn and moved to second when Carpenter drew a walk on four pitches.
Jansen fell behind in the count to Beltran, who pounced on a pitch down the middle to rip a line-drive for the game-winner.
"Three RBIs, walk-off hit and you throw a guy out at the plate to save the go-ahead run. It doesn't get much better than that," Descalso said about Beltran's brilliant night.
Game Two is in St Louis on Saturday with rookie Michael Wacha scheduled to start for the Cardinals against 2011 Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw for the Dodgers.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by John O'Brien)