St. Louis found a way to beat Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers once again. Now, the Cardinals are headed back to the National League Championship Series.
Matt Adams hit a go-ahead, three-run home run off Kershaw in the bottom of the seventh inning and the Cardinals won 3-2 at Busch Stadium to capture the best-of-5 series three games to one.
St. Louis, the defending NL champions, reached its fourth consecutive league championship series, but it looked for a while like the teams were headed back west for a deciding game five. Pitching on three days rest in the postseason for the second straight postseason, Kershaw limited the host Cardinals to just one hit through six.
But as they did in the series opener, the Cardinals got to Kershaw in the seventh for the eventual go-ahead runs.
Kershaw, who dropped to 1-4 against St. Louis in the postseason, had just struck out the side in a dominant sixth, fanning pinch-hitter Pete Kozma, Matt Carpenter and Randal Grichuk. The Dodgers came close to retiring each of the first two hitters in the seventh - Matt Holliday reached on an infield single that hit off the glove of a diving Dee Gordon at second base and trickled into shallow center field and Jhonny Peralta’s line drive hit off the glove of shortstop Hanley Ramirez to put runners at first and second. Adams missed a high fastball, then on Kershaw’s second pitch hit a hanging breaking ball into the St. Louis bullpen.
“I had to lock back in,” Adams said about his approach after strike one. “He’s a dominant pitcher, he’s coming after you with his best stuff.”
Los Angeles, which was trying to return to the NLCS for the fourth time since 2008, but instead lost in the Division Series for the first time since 2006, grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth.
Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez each singled to open the frame to put runners at first and third. Though Matt Kemp bounced into a double play, Crawford scored to make it 1-0. Shelby Miller, who started and ended up with a no-decision, hit Ramirez with a pitch and walked Andre Ethier. Facing Seth Maness, Juan Uribe picked up just his second hit of the series by rifling a single into the right-center field gap that chased home Ramirez to put the visitors ahead 2-0.
Ethier was picked off at third by catcher Yadier Molina for the final out with the initial safe call being overturned by a replay review.
The Dodgers had two more chances to score runs against the St. Louis bullpen. Winning pitcher Marco Gonzales, a rookie in his first postseason series, issued a walk and allowed a Crawford single, then got Gonzalez to ground out weakly to second to end that threat. In the ninth, St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal also put two on with a walk and a single, but another weak ground out, this time off the bat of Crawford, put an end to a series that saw three one-run games and a combined margin of victory of just five runs.
“Words can’t really describe, there’s not much I can compare it to,” said Rosenthal, who saved all three St. Louis victories in the series. “It’s hard to put into words. It’s just exciting.”
St. Louis will open the NLCS at home against San Francisco with game one scheduled for Saturday.