Adrian Gonzalez clubbed two homers, and Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis added solo shots as Los Angeles beat St Louis 6-4 to stay alive in the Major League Baseball playoffs.
Gonzalez’s 428-foot blast in the third inning on Wednesday was the first home run of the National League Championship Series (NLCS) for the Dodgers, who finished with four homers to cut the Cardinals’ lead in the best-of-seven set to 3-2.
“Adrian’s first homer was huge,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Obviously, we hadn’t been hitting them. We know the ball carries here during the day, but it was just one of those days that we were a little better, got some runs, good feeling.”
Both previous times the Cardinals have held a 3-1 series lead in the NLCS they went on to lose, including last year when the San Francisco Giants rallied to beat them 4-3. Atlanta did it to them in 1996.
“We had a couple of opportunities to do something and just couldn’t make it happen,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “Those usually come back to haunt you and today it did.
“You are going to have games where you 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,” he added.
The playoff now shifts to St Louis for game six today. The Cardinals need to win one of the next two to reach their second World Series in three years.
The Dodgers played like a desperate team in front of a crowd of 53,183 at Dodger Stadium. They busted out of their home run slump with an emphatic long-ball performance. The four homers tied the franchise record for a playoff game. Heading into game five they were batting just .223 as a team.
Starting pitcher Zack Greinke was effective through seven innings for Los Angeles, who finished 11 games ahead of Arizona to win the National League West Division.
Greinke appeared to be in for a short outing on Wednesday as he loaded the bases in the first inning.
However, the 29-year-old worked through it and eventually got Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina to hit into a double play to end the inning, stranding the three runners on base.
“I was real nervous out there with that situation,” Greinke said. “But then Molina, I know if he hits on the ground there is a good chance it is either going to be a hit or a double play. Risky going, bases loaded ... it was just, it worked out.”
Greinke allowed two runs on six hits and struck out four. He also chipped in at the plate with an RBI single in the second inning. It was one of two runs the Dodgers got in that inning to open the scoring in the contest.
The Dodgers are trying to become just the second team in NLCS history to rally from an 0-2 series deficit to win. The Cardinals did it in 1985 against Los Angeles.
St Louis starter Joe Kelly lasted five innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and two homers. Kelly, who grew up in Los Angeles, was one of the best pitchers in baseball over the second half of the regular season, as he posted a 1.97 ERA after June 1.
Gonzalez clubbed a solo home run into the right field seats to put the Dodgers up 3-2 in the bottom of the third.
He hit another homer in the bottom of the eighth as the final four runs by Los Angeles came off solo home runs.
Ellis’ home run in the seventh was his first career playoff homer.
The Cardinals tried to rally in the top of the ninth, managing to score two runs to cut the Dodgers’ lead to two before falling short.
Pinch hitter Adron Chambers was caught looking on a third strike to end the game, leaving two St Louis runners on base.
The Dodgers planed to go with left-hander Clayton Kershaw in game six while the Cardinals said the ball would go to Michael Wacha.
“We have a game plan for how we feel we can get them out. It is a matter of who executes,” Matheny said.