October 16, 2013

NLCS: Cardinals take 3-1 series lead

 LOS ANGELES (AP) — Thanks to two big swings and some excellent defense, the St. Louis Cardinals are one win from the World Series.

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St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal (26) is congratulated by teammates after Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Los Angeles. The Cardinals won 4-2 to take a 3-1 lead in the series. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

AP

Just like last year.

Matt Holliday and pinch-hitter Shane Robinson connected for the first home runs of the NL championship series, and St. Louis beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven playoff.

"We can't get ahead of ourselves," Holliday said.

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 runs.

Game 5 is Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, with the Cardinals one win from the World Series. Zack Greinke is set to start for Los Angeles against Joe Kelly.

Of course, St. Louis had a 3-1 lead in last year's NLCS before dropping three straight to San Francisco, the eventual World Series champion.

"Hopefully, we can throw some offense together like we were today 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."

It was a painful defeat for the Dodgers — in more ways than one. Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, playing with a broken left rib, left in the middle of the sixth after striking out three times.

"It got worse as we went along," manager Don Mattingly said.

St. Louis third baseman David Freese came out after six innings. He left Monday's game with a cramp in his right calf.

Hitless in his previous 22 at-bats at Dodger Stadium, Holliday sent a two-run shot off Ricky Nolasco an estimated 426 feet to left field, capping a three-run third 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.

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 Daniel 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.

Carlos Martinez pitched two scoreless innings in relief of winner Lance Lynn. 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.

Now, they'll count on Greinke and ace Clayton Kershaw to pitch them back into the series.

"Kind of the best thought I have is, I've got one of the best pitchers in baseball pitching tomorrow," 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."

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.

(Continued on page 2)

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