Despite coming home down 0-2 in the NL championship series, the Los Angeles Dodgers believed they easily could have taken the first two games in St. Louis with some clutch hitting.
They finally came through with some big hits to cut their deficit in half, and now aim to even their best-of-seven series with the Cardinals in Tuesday's Game 4.
Los Angeles got a huge lift before Monday's Game 3 with the news that Hanley Ramirez would start. Batting third in the lineup, Ramirez, who sat out Game 2 after being hit by a pitch in the ribs in the opener, singled in his first at-bat and drove in the final run with a hit in the eighth inning in the Dodgers' 3-0 win."What can I say? It couldn't be better," Ramirez said. "Really happy we got the first win. Just come back (Tuesday) and even up the series."
Ramirez, who wore a lightweight flak jacket to protect his ribs, is batting .455 with seven RBIs in the playoffs.
Andre Ethier also returned after being limited to a pinch-hitting role in Game 2 because of shin splints. He was hitless in four at-bats and is 1 for 13 with five strikeouts in the postseason.
The Dodgers outhit the Cardinals 14-9 in St. Louis, but were just 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position. They snapped a 22-inning scoreless streak with Adrian Gonzalez 's RBI double in the fourth inning and Yasiel Puig drove him in with a triple.
Los Angeles finished 3 for 11 with runners in scoring position."The playoffs are one-day momentum swings," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Right now I feel like we've kind of grabbed it."
While Mattingly believes his club has turned a corner, St. Louis' offense is still sputtering.
The Cardinals were limited to four hits Monday by Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen , and are batting .134 with seven walks in the NLCS. Third baseman David Freese is in the starting lineup after leaving Game 3 in the fifth inning with tightness in his right calf."We were fortunate to win the first two (with poor hitting)," Freese said. "We've got to get the sticks going a little bit."
The nine combined runs in the series are the fewest ever through three games of a league championship series, and it's anyone's guess how Game 4 will unfold with Los Angeles' Ricky Nolasco (13-11, 3.70 ERA) scheduled to go against Lance Lynn (1-1, 7.11).
Nolasco was expected to start Game 4 of the NL division series, but was bypassed as the Dodgers decided to go with Clayton Kershaw on three days' rest in an effort to wrap up the series.
Nolasco had been outstanding for Los Angeles since being acquired from Miami on July 6, going 8-1 with a 2.07 ERA in his first 12 starts, but then suddenly hit a wall, posting a 12.75 ERA over his final three starts. He hasn't pitched in a game since making a relief appearance against Colorado on Sept. 29.
The right-hander had a 0.75 ERA in winning his two 2013 starts against the Cardinals, yielding three unearned runs in five innings in his lone outing against them with the Dodgers on Aug. 7.
Carlos Beltran , who is 2 for 11 in this series, is batting .340 with a homer in 47 career at-bats against Nolasco, while Matt Holliday , hitless in 12 at-bats in the NLCS, is 12 for 26 with two home runs and three doubles.
Lynn already has made an appearance in the NLCS, throwing two scoreless innings of relief in the 13-inning opener. He allowed a single to Carl Crawford over the final two frames and was credited with the win.
The right-hander, however, was shaky against Pittsburgh in Game 2 of the NLDS, yielding five runs, seven hits and three walks in 4 1-3 innings of a 7-1 loss. He is 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA in three career postseason starts.
"Everything's different," Lynn said of the playoffs. "With the extra off days and all that stuff, the playoffs are always going to throw off your normal routine, because you're used to playing every single day."
Lynn was sharp in his lone start of the season against Los Angeles on May 24, allowing two hits in six innings of a 7-0 win at Dodger Stadium.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|October 14, 2013||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Right calf tightness|
|September 23, 2013||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Stiff back|
|September 04, 2013||Allen Craig||Day-to-Day||Sprained left foot|
|August 22, 2013||Jake Westbrook||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|August 22, 2013||Jake Westbrook||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|August 15, 2013||Tony Cruz||15-Day DL||Stress fracture, left forearm|
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|October 12, 2013||Hanley Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Sore ribs|
|September 29, 2013||Matt Kemp||Day-to-Day||Swelling in left ankle bone|
|September 26, 2013||Jerry Hairston Jr.||Day-to-Day||Back|
|September 25, 2013||Andre Ethier||Day-to-Day||Sprained left ankle|
|September 19, 2013||Adrian Gonzalez||Day-to-Day||Quadriceps|
|September 02, 2013||Yasiel Puig||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right knee strain|
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Thanks to two big swings and some excellent defense, the St. Louis Cardinals are one win from the World Series.
Just like last year.
Matt Holliday and pinch-hitter Shane Robinson connected for the first home runs of the NL championship series, sending St. Louis past the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 Tuesday night for a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven playoff.
"We can't get ahead of ourselves," Holliday said.
In a series starved for offense, the Cardinals scored as many runs as they did in the first three games combined, when the teams totaled nine.
Game 5 is Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, with the Cardinals looking to clinch their 19th pennant. Zack Greinke is set to start for Los Angeles against Joe Kelly .
Of course, St. Louis had a 3-1 lead in last year's NLCS before dropping three straight to San Francisco, the eventual World Series champion.
"We don't feel this is over by any means," infielder Daniel Descalso said. "You don't want to have that feeling again, losing three games in a row when you're so close to getting there. Just because you're up 3-1, it doesn't mean anything. Nobody's going to roll over for you. We've got to keep pushing and keep grinding."
It was a painful defeat for the Dodgers - in more ways than one. Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez , playing with a broken left rib, left in the middle of the sixth after striking out three times.
"It felt worse than yesterday," Ramirez said. "It makes me angry."
Hitless in his previous 22 at-bats at Dodger Stadium, Holliday drove a two-run shot off Ricky Nolasco an estimated 426 feet to left field, capping a three-run third inning that gave the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.
"That's about as good as I can hit one," said Holliday, who was 0 for 13 in the series before connecting.
"I wasn't really doubting my swing at all. I felt actually really good with my at-bats. Sometimes in this game you don't always get the results that you want even if you feel like you're having good at-bats, so I just wanted to stay with it," he said.
Seeking a second World Series title in three years, St. Louis turned three important double plays and picked off a runner at second base in the seventh. Defensive standout Pete Kozma , inserted at shortstop in the sixth, started a difficult double play and darted in to complete the pickoff.
"A great heads-up play by him," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Then it has to be natural instincts and athleticism by (reliever) Carlos Martinez , and I don't know many guys pull that off. He has such athletic moves. He's quick in everything he does. Then to have the guts to wheel and let it fly like that in a game like we have right now, it's off the charts."
Second baseman Matt Carpenter also keyed St. Louis' sharp work with the gloves, one night after some sloppy play was costly in a 3-0 defeat.
Carpenter had an RBI double in the third that scored Descalso, who hit a leadoff single. Carpenter came around on Holliday's homer after there were none in the first three games for the first time in NLCS history.
Martinez pitched two scoreless innings to help nail down the win for starter Lance Lynn . Trevor Rosenthal got three outs for his second save in the series.
After a leadoff single by Andre Ethier in the ninth, Yasiel Puig grounded into a double play. Juan Uribe struck out to end it, leaving the Dodgers on the brink of elimination.
Now, they'll count on Greinke and ace Clayton Kershaw to pitch them back into the series.
"Kind of the best thought I have is, I've got one of the best pitchers in baseball pitching tomorrow," Mattingly said. "If we come out here and play well tomorrow and get a win, I've probably got the best pitcher in baseball pitching the next day."
Robinson's home run bounced off the top of the wall in left field on a 1-0 pitch from J.P. Howell with one out in the seventh, extending the Cardinals' lead to 4-2.
"For a little guy, he's got surprising power," Holliday said. "I mean, honestly, he's got some thump."
Lynn allowed two runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings. He struck out five and walked three.
The right-hander lost his only other start this postseason, giving up five runs over 4 1-3 innings in Game 2 of the division series against Pittsburgh.
The Dodgers were down 4-2 in the seventh when Nick Punto doubled with one out. Martinez, however, picked off Punto before throwing another pitch and then retired Carl Crawford on an inning-ending groundout.
"It was a lonely place to be," Punto said.
Trailing 3-2, the Dodgers put the potential tying run on base in the sixth when Puig singled to chase Lynn. Uribe grounded into a double play against Seth Maness to end the inning.
The Dodgers stuck with Nolasco as their starter even though he hadn't pitched since Sept. 29. He struggled in his last three starts in September, giving up at least five earned runs in each.
Nolasco was passed over for his scheduled assignment in Game 4 of the division series, when the Dodgers used Kershaw on three days' rest for the first time in his career. Kershaw pitched well and took a no-decision in a 4-3 victory over Atlanta that clinched the series.
Before this one, Mattingly had said Nolasco was being put in a difficult position after not pitching for so long. Mattingly said Kershaw and Greinke both offered to start on short rest at Dodger Stadium.
Nolasco allowed three runs and three hits in four innings. He struck out four and walked one.
"I felt my stuff was good for the most part," he said. "Just that one pitch was the difference in the game."
Los Angeles scored twice in the fourth to cut it to 3-2. Adrian Gonzalez hit a leadoff double and scored on Puig's single. A.J. Ellis singled to drive in Andre Ethier , who walked.
But just when it appeared the Dodgers had grabbed the momentum, pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker bounced into an inning-ending double play.
NOTES: Cardinals 3B David Freese came out after six innings for defense. He left Monday's game with a cramp in his right calf, but Matheny said Freese was fine. ... St. Louis won a Game 4 on the road for the first time in NLCS play. ... The Cardinals also squandered a 3-1 lead in the 1996 NLCS against Atlanta. ... Nolasco, who is from nearby Corona and grew up a Dodgers fan, made the first postseason start of his career. ... Schumaker was 3 for 21 with no RBIs as a pinch-hitter during the regular season, and struck out in his only other at-bat as a pinch-hitter in the postseason. ... There was a pregame moment of silence for MLB umpire Wally Bell, who died Monday at 48. ... Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of Kirk Gibson 's famous pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth at Dodger Stadium, giving Los Angeles a 5-4 win over Oakland in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. ... Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda , who at 86 is special adviser to the team chairman, tossed out a first pitch from midway between the mound and home plate that missed the target. Mattingly, who was catching, gave him a mulligan. Lasorda managed that 1988 team, the Dodgers' last appearance in the World Series. ... With the government partially shut down, there was a pregame flyover of vintage aircraft by a nonprofit organization founded by a group of World War II fighter pilots. ... Among the famous faces in the crowd were Tom Cruise and Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad."