ATLANTA — Neither the St. Louis Cardinals nor Atlanta Braves could really put into words what happened Wednesday afternoon in the first inning of Game 5 of the National League Division Series.

But they both understood how it sent both franchises on familiar paths.

The visiting Cardinals became the first team ever to score 10 runs in the opening inning of a postseason game, and they cruised to a 13-1 win in the decisive NLDS game.

St. Louis will face either the Dodgers or the Nationals in the NL Championship Series beginning Friday night. Washington and host Los Angeles were playing Game 5 of the other NLDS later Wednesday.

“It felt like we blinked and the next thing you know, it was 10-0,” Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter told Fox Sports Midwest.

There was no waking up from the nightmare for the Braves during a 26-minute inning in which the Cardinals sent 14 batters to the plate against starter Mike Foltynewicz and reliever Max Fried.

“I haven’t processed it enough,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I don’t know. I don’t know that I’ve seen that many guys hit in the first inning that quick in my entire life. I don’t know. It wasn’t how we drew it up, I know that.

“I don’t know. That thing just kept rolling, and we couldn’t stop it.”

Marcell Ozuna (single), Carpenter (walk), Tommy Edman (two-run double), pitcher Jack Flaherty (walk), Dexter Fowler (two-run double) and Kolten Wong (two-run double) all collected RBIs in the first for the Cardinals, who extended their lead to 10-0 when Wong raced home from third on a wild pitch on strike three to Ozuna.

The 10 runs tied the record for most runs scored in any postseason inning.

St. Louis joined the Philadelphia Athletics (seventh inning of Game 4 of the 1929 World Series), Detroit Tigers (third inning of Game 6 of the 1968 World Series) and Anaheim Angels (seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2002 AL Championship Series) in the select club.

The Cardinals’ victory marked the fourth time a team won a winner-take-all game by 10 or more runs.

Now the Cardinals, who were 44-45 on July 12 but went 47-26 the rest of the way to win the NL Central by two games, will head into the NLCS with momentum.

The Cardinals are in the NLCS for the fifth time this decade and the 14th time in the division-play era (since 1969). St. Louis is looking to reach the World Series for the first time since 2013 and win it all for the first time since 2011.

“We have what it takes, just the character and stuff in the clubhouse,” said Fowler, who set the tone in the first by drawing a leadoff walk against Foltynewicz on a 3-2 pitch. “When our back’s against the wall, there’s nobody in the trenches I’d rather have than these guys at this point.

“We’ve come out and we faced adversity for a lot of the season. A lot of people have counted us out, and I don’t think we’re going to give up soon.”

The storyline Wednesday was a familiar one for the NL East champion Braves, who were four outs away from winning Game 4 and advancing on Monday before once again failing to reach the NLCS for the first time since 2001. Only five other teams have not reached an LCS in that span — one of them the Nationals, who could end their drought Wednesday night.

The loss Wednesday was the Braves’ fifth straight in winner-take-all games since 2002: four defeats in Game 5 of an NLDS and one loss in the NL wild-card game.

“You put this thing together, your goal is to get in the playoffs because anything can happen after that,” Snitker said. “I guess we saw that. Anything did happen.”

Paul DeJong (RBI double in the second, RBI single in the third) and Harrison Bader (RBI single in the third) added run-scoring hits for St. Louis.

Flaherty (1-1) allowed one run on four hits and one walk while striking out eight over six innings.

Josh Donaldson homered in the fourth for the Braves, who loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth before Freeman hit into a force out.

Foltynewicz (1-1) was charged with seven runs (six earned) on three hits and three walks while getting just one out. — Reuters