SAN FRANCISCO As the St. Louis Cardinals' ninth-inning rally in Game 5 of the National League Division Series began to take form, second baseman Daniel Descalso, watching from the dugout, had a feeling he might come up in an important spot.
The Cardinals, down 7-5 to the Washington Nationals, had one runner on and were down to their last strike. But Nationals closer Drew Storen walked Yadier Molina, bringing Descalso, a former UC Davis standout, into the on-deck circle.
"I knew they probably weren't going to let (David) Freese beat them, or they were going to make it tough on him," Descalso recalled on Saturday as his Cardinals readied to play the Giants in the N.L. Championship Series. "So I was thinking that it might get to me."
Freese, the hero of the Cardinals' comeback in Game 6 of last year's World Series, also walked. So Descalso, 5 for 18 with two home runs in the series, came up with the bases loaded and the Cardinals' season on the line.
"I was confident in my approach and told myself, 'If he throws you a fastball (on the) first pitch and it's a good one to hit, don't be late,' " Descalso said.
He wasn't. Storen threw a first-pitch, 94-mph sinking fastball, and Descalso shot it up the middle and off the glove of diving Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond to score the first two of four Cardinals runs in the inning.
That propelled the Cardinals into the NLCS, where, not far from his hometown of San Carlos, Descalso went 2 for 4 and made a defensive stop that ended the Giants' four-run fourth-inning rally in Game 1.
Descalso played at UC Davis from 2005 to 2007, hitting .397 as a junior before the Cardinals drafted him in the third round.
"I really improved as a ballplayer there," Descalso said. "When I was there, we didn't have very good teams, but we played in the Big West (Conference) against great competition, and I was really able to improve myself and just get better as a baseball player. And a lot of that's due to the coaching staff over there and the hard work they put in."
The second UC Davis product to play in the major leagues, Descalso last year became the first former Aggie to play in the World Series, recording two hits in Game 6 as the Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers in seven games.
"It's nice," Descalso said of the distinction. "But that program's growing, and I'm sure I won't be the last."
UC Davis alumnus Steve Brown pitched for the Angels in 1983 and 1984.
Kelly absent Giants first-base coach Roberto Kelly was not on the field after suffering a concussion Saturday when a line drive struck him in the head during batting practice. Special assistant coach Joe Lefebvre coached first base instead.
"I don't see him being out there at least these (first) two games, if not longer," manager Bruce Bochy said of Kelly. "He's at home. He's resting well."
Lefebvre, coincidentally, coached first for the Giants in 2002, the year they reached the World Series by beating the Cardinals in the NLCS.