Although the St. Louis Cardinals are one victory away from winning the NL pennant, they don't want to get caught up with World Series talk after what transpired last October.
A year after a devastating postseason collapse, the Cardinals will try to close out the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the NL championship series on Wednesday.
St. Louis is seeking a second World Series in three years, and its 4-2 win over Los Angeles on Tuesday has given it a 3-1 series lead.
"We can't get ahead of ourselves," left fielder Matt Holliday said.
He certainly speaks from experience after the Cardinals squandered such a lead in the 2012 NLCS, losing the last three games to San Francisco - the eventual World Series champion. The offense was a major culprit of that collapse, mustering one run while hitting .190.
It could become a problem again since St. Louis owns a .148 average while totaling eight runs in this series.
The Dodgers, however, are having their own problems at the plate, producing seven runs and going 6 for 33 (.182) with runners in scoring position.
Holliday gave the Cardinals a jolt offensively in Game 4, hitting the first homer of the series - a two-run shot in the third inning. He finished with two hits after going hitless in his previous 22 at-bats at Chavez Ravine.
"Hopefully, we can throw some offense together like we were (Tuesday) a little bit and keep some positive thoughts going," manager Mike Matheny said. "When we start talking about where the series is, I think it's a distraction. What we've got to do is play a game."
Offense may be at a premium again since the Dodgers are scheduled to send Zack Greinke (0-1, 2.57 ERA) to the mound.
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA over his last four starts against the Cardinals, but could've used some help from his teammates in Game 1. Greinke struck out 10 and allowed two runs in eight innings of a 3-2 loss in 13 on Friday.
Holliday is 9 for 29 (.310) with two homers all-time against Greinke, including the playoffs.
This time, Greinke is wary of a breakout performance from the Cardinals.
"If you make really good pitches it's not much the offense can do," he said, "but they haven't had many like lucky hits so they're probably due for a couple like flairs and groundballs that just no one can get to."
The Dodgers are certainly more concerned with their own offensive issues, and Hanley Ramirez 's availability due to a broken rib. The star shortstop exited in the middle of the sixth inning Tuesday after striking out three times.
"It got worse as we went along," manager Don Mattingly said.
Mattingly may need Ramirez to get better if Los Angeles is going to overturn a 3-1 series deficit for the first time in its lengthy postseason history.
"We realize we've been through a lot in the regular season, but it pales in comparison to what we're doing now," said second baseman Mark Ellis , who went 0 for 4 Tuesday. "We realize we have it in us to do this. It's a three-game win streak. That's all it is."
The Dodgers haven't reeled off three straight postseason wins since sweeping the Cardinals in the 2009 division series.
Joe Kelly (0-0, 3.18), a native of nearby Anaheim, will try to keep it that way, and help the Cardinals wrap up this series.
The right-hander started opposite Greinke in Game 1, yielding two runs in six innings.
"Obviously they know what I've got, and I know what they've got," Kelly said. "It's just going to be about executing pitches, ultimately."
Kelly did that versus Yasiel Puig in Game 1, holding the rookie sensation hitless in three at-bats, striking him out once.
A meeting at Dodger Stadium could prove different since Puig is 9 for 15 (.600) with four RBIs in four playoff games there after getting four hits over the last two against St. Louis.
He hit .360 at home during the regular season compared to .284 on the road.
|Scott Van Slyke||1||.000||0||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||.000|
|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) -- It took the Dodgers five games to hit a home run in the NL championship series. Once Adrian Gonzalez powered up for the first one, their dormant offense broke loose.
Gonzalez homered twice and Zack Greinke came through with the clutch performance Los Angeles needed in a 6-4 victory over the Cardinals on Wednesday that trimmed St. Louis' lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven playoff.
" Guys weren't ready to lose today," said Carl Crawford , who also went deep to help the Dodgers save their season.
Los Angeles held on in the ninth, when St. Louis scored twice off closer Kenley Jansen before he struck out pinch-hitter Adron Chambers with two on to end it.
The series shifts back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Friday night, with ace Clayton Kershaw scheduled to start for Los Angeles against rookie Michael Wacha .
When those two squared off in Game 2, the Cardinals won 1-0 on an unearned run.
" We've kind of become America's team because everyone wants to see a seventh game," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. " Probably even the fans in St. Louis would like to see a seventh game, so I figure that everybody's for us to win on Friday night."
The Cardinals also led last year's NLCS 3-1 before losing three straight games to the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants .
" We're looking to do the same thing," Gonzalez said.
Desperate to avoid elimination, the Dodgers brought in some Hollywood star power for pregame introductions. Will Ferrell announced their lineup and lent a comic spin to each player's name, capping it by introducing Greinke as " today's winning pitcher."
Ferrell knew what he was talking about.
Greinke got into a bases-loaded jam with none out in the first but escaped with no damage. From there, he pitched seven strong innings and even delivered an RBI single.
" That was big. I was real nervous out there with that situation," Greinke said.
A.J. Ellis also homered at Dodger Stadium, where it is tougher to clear the fences in the heavy night air.
Helped by playing in 82-degree heat on a sunny afternoon, the Dodgers rediscovered their power stroke just in time to extend the series. They hit .274 in three games at home after batting .184 during the first two games in St. Louis.
" It was just one of those days that we were a little better, got some runs, good feeling," Mattingly said.
The Dodgers regrouped after Greinke squandered an early 2-0 lead just as he did in Game 1, which Los Angeles lost 3-2 in 13 innings on the road.
After neither team homered in the first three games for the first time in NLCS history, the big bats came out. The Cardinals used a two-run homer by Matt Holliday and a solo shot from pinch-hitter Shane Robinson to win 4-2 on Tuesday night.
This time, Gonzalez went 3 for 4 with two solo homers and three runs scored. His two-out shot in the eighth made it 6-2.
" We have a team that can bounce back and do some pretty incredible things out there," he said.
The Cardinals tied it at 2 in the third on Carlos Beltran 's RBI triple and Holliday's run-scoring double before Yadier Molina grounded into his second inning-ending double play against Greinke.
" He wasn't as sharp as he was the first time we faced him," Beltran said. " But guys like that, the best guys in the game, they're able to regroup and find a way to help their team win."
Los Angeles answered in the bottom of the third. Mark Ellis singled leading off but was erased when Hanley Ramirez grounded into a double play.
Gonzalez followed with the Dodgers' first homer of the NLCS, slugging the ball an estimated 428 feet into the right-field pavilion for a 3-2 lead.
As he headed toward the dugout, Gonzalez cupped his hands to his ears and wiggled them in a gesture resembling mouse ears. It was an apparent jab at Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright , who said Gonzalez had done " some Mickey Mouse stuff" in celebrating a double on Monday night.
" It's just having fun," Gonzalez said. " I'm going to retire them so they're not talked about once again."
Crawford egged Gonzalez on.
" I'm pretty sure it rubbed them the wrong way and they're going to use that as some kind of fuel, so you might as well keep doing it," Crawford said, laughing.
Gonzalez replied: " Hey, if Carl wants them. It's for him, not for anybody else."
After wriggling out of big trouble in the first when Molina bounced into a double play, Greinke allowed two runs and six hits. He struck out four and walked one.
" He made his pitches, we made the plays, got out of it," Gonzalez said. " We were able to get run support for him. All he needed was a few runs."
Jansen gave up RBI singles to Matt Adams and Pete Kozma in the ninth.
A.J. Ellis homered in seventh, sending an 0-2 pitch from Edward Mujica into the left-field pavilion to make it 5-2.
Crawford homered with one out in the fifth, extending the Dodgers' lead to 4-2. He walloped a 3-2 pitch from starter Joe Kelly an estimated 447 feet into the right-field pavilion.
Kelly gave up four runs and seven hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked none.
" I made a few bad pitches on heaters and didn't locate that well, and they turned into home runs," he said. " With guys on base, I was going after them and attacking them with the fastball, but they're good hitters and they put good swings on them and hit them out of the park."
Beltran's triple went over the head of Andre Ethier and to the wall in center, scoring Matt Carpenter , who singled. Holliday followed with a double to deep center, but that was it for St. Louis until the ninth.
" We had a couple of opportunities to do something, and we just couldn't make it happen," manager Mike Matheny said. " These guys have done a tremendous job in those exact same situations all season long. You're going to have games where you just can't make it happen, and we've got to figure out a way to get it done the next time we get a chance."
NOTES: Molina went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. ... Greinke's hit in the second was the third of his postseason career. ... Ramirez, playing with a broken left rib, left after six innings. ... In the three games Ramirez has started with the injury, only two grounders have been hit to him at shortstop. ... The homers by Gonzalez and Crawford were the first given up by Kelly in 24 career postseason innings. He allowed two homers in a game twice during the regular season. ... The Dodgers are trying to become the 12th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. ... Beltran's triple was his first ever in the postseason. ... Former Dodgers star Orel Hershiser tossed out the first pitch on the 25th anniversary of his three-hit shutout against Oakland in Game 2 of the 1988 World Series.