Carlos Beltran thought he would miss Game 2 of the World Series after bruising his ribs when he banged into a fence in the opener.
Turned out he was wrong, and all was right with the Cardinals. The 16-year veteran playing in his first Series singled twice and drove in a run to help St. Louis tie it at one game apiece with a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night.
"When I left the ballpark yesterday, I had very little hope that I was going to be in the lineup," Beltran said.
For all the years he played and the first World Series game he comes out in the second inning, I'm just glad he's OK
"Tomorrow, I know for sure I'm going to wake up feeling sore."
But there's no game on Friday, so he has a day to recover before the Series resumes in St. Louis on Saturday night.
"We feel confident and we feel good about ourselves because we know how well we play at home," Beltran said.
"Having the fans on your side is a big factor."
An eight-time All-Star, Beltran had waited a long time to finally get to the World Series. And he arrived with a bang, smacking into the low right-field wall and reaching into the Cardinals' bullpen to rob David Ortiz of a grand slam in the second inning of Boston's 8-1 win in Game 1.
Beltran walked slowly back to his position, rubbed the right side of his rib cage and finished the inning. But he was replaced when the Cardinals took the field in the third.
"For all the years he played and the first World Series game he comes out in the second inning, I'm just glad he's OK," Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso said.
"It could have been a lot worse."
Especially without the pain-killer Toradol. Beltran said an injection he received before the game was expected to block the pain for five or six hours.
"Carlos is such a pro," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
"He knows how to handle when he doesn't feel completely 100 percent, which he probably hasn't felt since February. But he's the kind of guy that knows how to make the best of what he has."
Descalso didn't find out until the lineup was posted that Beltran would play. In the seventh, Descalso walked and scored on Beltran's single.
"I was pretty sure if the guy could swing he was going to be in the lineup," Descalso said.
"The guy is just a competitor and a gamer and nobody wants to be out there more than him. So I was keeping my fingers crossed that he would be in the lineup."
And Beltran delivered right away.
He singled in the first inning and then singled again to drive in the final run in the three-run seventh when St. Louis capitalised on fielding blunders by Boston to erase a 2-1 deficit.
"I didn't know what was going on today," center fielder Jon Jay said about Beltran.
"He was doing his deal to get ready. You can't talk enough about him. Just after he's in some pain last night and even when he showed up to the ballpark, for him to go out there and he contributed. It's not like he just played just to play.
"He really drove in that big run for us."
Throughout his career, Beltran has displayed a rare combination of power and speed. In 2,064 regular-season games, he has a .283 batting average, 358 homers and 308 steals. His numbers are even more impressive in the playoffs.
But in 45 postseason games, he had never reached the World Series. Until Wednesday.
The 36-year-old struck out in the first inning before leaving Game 1. He was taken to a hospital for X-rays and a CT scan, which were negative.
"The news that I received was encouraging," he said.
Fortunately for Beltran, he didn't have any balls hit to him in right field on Thursday.
And when Trevor Rosenthal struck out pinch-hitter Daniel Nava to end the game, Beltran trotted toward Jay and left fielder Matt Holliday. They slapped hands and congratulated each other.
"We were all just happy," Jay said.
"You could tell by our smiles. It was a big win."