The St Louis Cardinals moved within one win of a spot in the World Series by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 on Tuesday, taking a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
Matt Holliday and pinch hitter Shane Robinson connected for the first home runs of the series to give the Cardinals the same 3-1 series advantage they held this time last year, only to lose the last three games to San Francisco.
Game 5 was to be played yesterday at Dodger Stadium, with Zack Greinke chosen to start for Los Angeles against Joe Kelly.
It was a painful defeat for the Dodgers, in more ways than one. Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, playing with a broken left rib, departed in the middle of the sixth inning after striking out three times.
St Louis third baseman David Freese came out after six innings. He left Monday’s game with a cramp in his right calf.
Second baseman Matt Carpenter had an RBI double in the third inning that scored David Descalso, who hit a leadoff single.
Then Holliday — hitless in his previous 22 at-bats at Dodger Stadium — sent a two-run shot off Ricky Nolasco an estimated 426 feet beyond left field, putting the visitors up 3-0.
Los Angeles scored twice in the fourth to cut the lead to 3-2. Adrian Gonzalez hit a leadoff double and scored on Yasiel Puig’s single. A.J. Ellis singled to drive in Andre Ethier, who had walked.
Just when it appeared the Dodgers had grabbed the momentum, pinch hitter Skip Schumaker bounced into an inning-ending double play.
Trailing 3-2, the Dodgers put the potential tying run on base in the sixth when Puig singled, but Juan Uribe grounded into a double play against Seth Maness to end the inning.
Robinson’s home run came off J.P. Howell with one out in the seventh, bouncing off the top of the wall in left field to make it 4-2.
The Dodgers’ comeback hopes were raised in the seventh when Nick Punto doubled with one out, but reliever Carlos Martinez picked off Punto with the next pitch and then retired Carl Crawford on an inning-ending groundout.
Los Angeles’ last chance came in the ninth, when Andre Ethier hit a leadoff single, but Puig grounded into a double play and Uribe struck out to end it.
“I’ve got one of the best pitchers in baseball pitching tomorrow,” Dodgers 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.”
St Louis’ starter Lance Lynn allowed two runs in 5-1/3 innings with five strikeouts.
The Dodgers stuck with Nolasco as their starter even though he had not pitched in two weeks and struggled in his last three starts.
Nolasco was passed over for his scheduled assignment in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, when the Dodgers chose to use Kershaw on three days’ rest.
Before this one, Mattingly had said Nolasco was being put in a difficult position after not pitching for so long. He allowed three runs in four innings.