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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Braves Crash Cards' Party to Win 14-0

ST. LOUIS -- This is what you call making a statement. The champagne was on ice, the Busch Stadium signs declared victory, TWA representatives were booking airline tickets to New York for all those crazed Cardinals fans who were ready to go straight to Game 1 of the World Series.

The Braves -- dissed and dismissed by the St. Louis faithful -- turned their heads Monday night and sniffed in disdain.

Facing elimination in the National League Championship Series, Atlanta gave the Cardinals a lesson in what it takes to be a champion Monday evening, smacking an LCS-record 22 hits for a 14-0 victory. They got seven shutout innings from their ace, John Smoltz. They got at least one hit from every player in the starting lineup. Now, they get to go home to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium for Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7.

Though the Cardinals still hold a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series, Monday night represented more than one necessary victory to the Braves. Atlanta sent a message to St. Louis -- and the baseball world -- with the way it won this game: Doubters, beware. The defending champions are not ready to abdicate the throne.

"We're going back to our turf," said left fielder Ryan Klesko. "We've got good pitching coming up, and the way our bats swung tonight, well, all I can say is -- watch out!"

Monday night's game -- which was effectively over after Atlanta's six-hit, five-run first inning -- produced a list of Braves' accomplishments almost dizzying in length and proportion. The total runs scored tied the most ever scored in a league championship series.

The margin of victory was the largest ever in a league championship game. Individually, Mark Lemke was 4-for-4 in the first four innings, Javier Lopez hit a homer and scored four runs, and even Smoltz smacked two hits.

The Braves had lost three straight coming into Monday night's game, and Manager Bobby Cox felt compelled to give a rare pregame speech. It wasn't really necessary. The Braves were well aware of what they had to do.

"When I walked in here today, I saw attitude in everybody's face," center fielder Marquis Grissom said. "And I knew I had attitude."

Todd Stottlemyre, the pitcher who started this debacle, felt the brunt of it. Coming into this postseason, he was known as the guy who couldn't pitch in the playoffs: He had an 0-3 record and 6.87 earned run average after four league championship series appearances for the Blue Jays, and a 9.53 World Series ERA. After he won Game 2 for the Cardinals last Thursday, his father Mel -- the pitching coach for the Yankees -- talked excitedly about what the victory meant. "It was a pretty big high," Mel Stottlemyre told reporters in Baltimore. "Mostly because I know he's felt like he's had that monkey on his back for a while."

Monday night, that monkey grew into a gorilla. Stottlemyre lasted one inning plus and gave up six runs over that span. His brief outing felt endless, as the Braves put together a hit parade that seemed nearly as long as Macy's Thanksgiving Day extravaganza. Grissom hit him. Lemke hit him. Chipper Jones hit him. Jermaine Dye hit him. Heck, it was a miracle Smoltz didn't hit him -- only a pretty diving stab by second baseman Luis Alicea prevented Stottlemyre from giving up a run-scoring single to his Atlanta counterpart.

"I pitched according to my game plan and it didn't work out," Stottlemyre said. "Sometimes, you can make the pitches you want, and you still get hit. And hit."