Cardinals Crush Braves to Reach the N.L.C.S.

ATLANTA — Ten runs. Five hits. Oddly enough, no home runs.

For the St. Louis Cardinals, that was Wednesday’s glorious first inning. For the Atlanta Braves, it was their latest contribution to this city’s collective, seemingly ceaseless sports migraine.

As for the 43,122 people who filled SunTrust Park, well, they could be forgiven for perhaps feeling as if they had tickets for St. Louis batting practice instead of the decisive Game 5 of a National League division series.

Yet most of them stayed — for a while — as the Cardinals kept scoring and the Braves kept collapsing. Eventually, the scoreboard showed that the Cardinals had won, 13-1, and clinched a berth in the National League Championship Series.

“When we scored 10 runs in the first inning, I felt pretty good about the game,” Kolten Wong, the St. Louis second baseman, said in the clubhouse after the final out. “You put pressure on these guys early, that’s our motto and we did it and these guys broke.”

While St. Louis advanced to its first N.L.C.S. since 2014, Atlanta lost its 10th consecutive playoff round, tying the Chicago Cubs, who went from 1910 to 1998 without winning a postseason series.

Strong pitching and late dramatics tended to define this series, and Wednesday’s starting pitchers — Mike Foltynewicz for the Braves and Jack Flaherty for the Cardinals, who dueled in a close Game 2 — offered the prospect for more of both.

The first inning began with the anodyne, at least by the standards of what was to come. A walk to the Cardinals’ Dexter Fowler. A sacrifice from Wong. An infield single from Paul Goldschmidt — a break for Atlanta against a hitter who entered the night with six extra-base hits in the series.

Foltynewicz, whose slider propelled the Braves to a 3-0 victory in Game 2, had gotten one out on 10 pitches and was poised for a possible double play to end the inning.

After 13 more pitches — leading to a single, an error, a walk and a double — St. Louis led, 4-0. Foltynewicz issued an intentional walk, and his fourth career playoff start was over after 14 minutes. In that time, he allowed enough base runners to push his earned run average for this postseason from perfect to 7.36.

Foltynewicz’s exit was only an intermission in the St. Louis batting order’s outburst. Max Fried entered from the bullpen and, with the bases loaded, immediately walked Flaherty to make the score 5-0.

Consecutive doubles by Fowler and Kolten Wong drove in four more runs before Fried — who had appeared in three previous games of this series without allowing a run — finally recorded his first out on a Goldschmidt liner. Then Marcell Ozuna, who would eventually set a record for most hits by a Cardinal in a division series, struck out.

Except he didn’t. The pitch was wild, Wong dashed down the third-base line for St. Louis’s 10th run, and Ozuna managed to reach first. Only when Yadier Molina grounded out did the top of the first conclude, St. Louis having tied the record for the most runs in any postseason inning.

“It was never enough runs, man,” Cardinals Manager Mike Shildt said. “Just keep eating, boys, keep going, which we did. I love the fact we added on after that.”

The Braves allowed runs in each of the first three innings. The Cardinals had a 13-run lead by the time Josh Donaldson, the Atlanta third baseman, homered in the fourth inning. And with that, the scoring for the day was done.

“Everything went wrong from the get-go,” said Freddie Freeman, Atlanta’s first baseman.

“We had a really good team,” he said. “We just didn’t put it all together in the five games we needed to.”

As the Braves finished their season, they also said farewell to catcher Brian McCann, who is retiring after 15 seasons. He spent 10 of them with Atlanta — the first nine and this one, his finale.

The Cardinals will next play the winner of a later game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals. The journey to the championship series was a sharp shift for a franchise that claimed a World Series title in 2011 and had 100 wins in 2015 but skidded and ended up firing its manager, Mike Matheny, last year.

Under Shildt, who had spent years in the Cardinals organization before joining the major league club in 2017, St. Louis sharply improved its fielding, lowered its team E.R.A. and won 91 games.

“People counted us out, people would never give us a chance, and we fought and we fought and we fought,” said Wong, whose team captured the N.L. Central title on the last day of the regular season. “And now we’re the frigging N.L.D.S. champions.”