ST. LOUIS -- The first home run launched in the bottom of the sixth inning and didn't end its journey until it clanked off the facing of the second deck in left field. The second hooked into the seats just below.
Just in case anyone had forgotten that Carlos Beltran has been one of the best postseason performers of his generation, the 35-year-old outfielder delivered two pointed reminders in the Cardinals' 12-4 win over the Nationals in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Monday at Busch Stadium.
It was fitting, in a way. The Cards had seen what Beltran can do when the games count most up close and personal, facing him in the NL Championship Series when he played for the Astros in 2004 and the Mets in '06. But Beltran hasn't been back since, one of the reasons he chose to sign with the defending World Series champions when he became a free agent last offseason.
Carlos Beltran and David Freese rank first and fourth in slugging percentage in postseason history
"It's great after all these years," Beltran said. "Being able to fight to be in these situations, I'm grateful. It's a great thing for me, the stage I'm at in my career. I was looking to sign with a team that would give me this kind of an opportunity. And the Cardinals believed in what I did last year and were able to commit to me."
In 10 career NLDS games, Beltran is 15-for-39 (.385) with six homers and 13 RBIs. In 14 NLCS games, he's a .353 hitter with seven homers and 14 RBIs. Beltran also owns the highest postseason slugging percentage in Major League history with an .819 clip.
So even though Beltran tailed off badly in the second half this season, hitting just .236 after the All-Star break, it shouldn't have surprised anybody to see him come up big in Game 2.
The first homer came on a 2-2 changeup from Nats reliever Michael Gonzalez.
"In that particular at-bat right there, I'm not thinking about a homer," Beltran said. "I'm just thinking about trying to hit the ball hard, put the ball in play. He threw me a changeup in the middle part of the plate, and I was able to stay inside the ball. And as soon as I hit it, it was a good feeling."
The second was on a 3-1 fastball from Sean Burnett, a two-run shot.
"It was right down the middle," Beltran said. "He's been a good pitcher for them out of the bullpen, a tough one. The ball was sinking, and I was trying to stay in the middle of the field. He just left the ball right there, and I was able to hit it good."
If these home runs are an announcement that Beltran is ready to get on another postseason roll, he just may get to show what he can do in the World Series for the first time in his career.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.