Cardinals move within 1 game of World Series
By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
The Cardinals have been this close to the World Series before, and they don’t want to blow it this time.
St. Louis got home runs from Matt Holliday and pinch-hitter Shane Robinson — the first of the NL championship series — and beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 Tuesday night for a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven playoff.
The Cardinals have lost the NLCS both times they owned such a commanding lead, most recently last season when they dropped three in a row to San Francisco, the eventual World Series winner.
“That’s something that we thought last year — up 3-1 and all we have to do is win one more and we’re there,” closer Trevor Rosenthal said. “But that didn’t work out, so we’ve just got to keep the same approach.”
With a quick turnaround for Game 5 Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles, the Dodgers will try to forget the loss, and hope the Cardinals remember their recent past failures.
“We get into a Game 7, those things (losing a 3-1 lead) will creep into their heads over there,” Dodgers infielder Adrian Gonzalez said. “Our goal is definitely to push this to a Game 7.”
Joe Kelly will start Game 5 for the Cardinals, looking to clinch their 19th pennant.
The Dodgers will turn to Zack Greinke, and if he can help deliver a win, they’ll call on ace Clayton Kershaw for a potential Game 6 back in St. Louis.
“I’ve got one of the best pitchers in baseball pitching tomorrow,” manager Don 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.”
The Dodgers hope star shortstop Hanley Ramirez can again start despite a broken left rib. He left in the middle of the sixth after striking out three times.
“It felt worse than yesterday,” Ramirez said. “It makes me angry.”
Cardinals infielder David Freese came out after six innings for defense. He left Monday’s game with a cramp in his right calf, but manager Mike Matheny said Freese was fine.
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.
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,” 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, who allowed two runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings. He struck out five and walked three. 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.
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.”
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.
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.”