Los Angeles, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - See you in St. Louis.
Behind four solo home runs, including two from Adrian Gonzalez, and a gritty seven-inning effort out of Zack Greinke, the Los Angeles Dodgers stayed alive in the National League Championship Series by hanging on for a 6-4 Game 5 triumph over the St. Louis Cardinals to send the best-of-seven set back to the Gateway City.
Gonzalez finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored to pace a Dodgers' offense that regained its power stroke to force a Game 6, where Los Angeles will be sending ace Clayton Kershaw to the hill. Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis also delivered solo blasts for the NL West champs, who hadn't homered at all in dropping three of the first four matchups to St. Louis.
"We know what we have in the clubhouse. We believe in ourselves," said Crawford. "We trust one another. To be honest with you, I just think guys weren't ready to lose today."
Greinke (1-0) helped his cause with an RBI single in addition to limiting the Cardinals to two runs on six hits. The standout right-hander struggled early on, but later found a groove and set down 13 consecutive hitters prior to being lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Dodgers still needed to stave off a furious late comeback attempt to survive, as St. Louis scored twice off Kenley Jansen and brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth before the Los Angeles closer fanned Adron Chambers looking for the final out.
Matt Holliday went 3-for-4 with an RBI and Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter each collected two hits for the Cardinals, who return home for Friday's Game 6 hoping to avoid an undesired case of deja vu. St. Louis also held a 3-1 series lead in last year's NLCS, but proceeded to lose three straight to eventual World Series champion San Francisco.
The Cardinals will pin their hopes on rookie sensation Michael Wacha, who outdueled Kershaw in a 1-0 St. Louis victory in Game 2, when the series shifts back to Busch Stadium.
Gonzalez's first home run of the day was a big one, as the slugging first baseman snapped a 2-2 tie with a third-inning no-doubter immediately after Cardinals starter Joe Kelly (0-1) got a hobbled Hanley Ramirez to ground into a double play. The margin grew to two runs a couple of innings later, when Crawford drilled a Kelly fastball into the seats in right for his fourth homer of this postseason.
"We know the ball carried here during day, but it was just one of those days that we were a little better [offensively]," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly remarked.
In between, Greinke settled down from a shaky beginning to the game by retiring the side in order in both the fourth and fifth frames. He did the same in each of the next two innings, and departed with a 5-2 advantage when Ellis continued Los Angeles' power surge by crushing an 0-2 offering from Edward Mujica into the left-field seats in the bottom of the seventh.
"I just tried to locate some fastballs and [it] ended up working," said Greinke. "It's always a mental battle, a physical and mental battle against them. Trying, like I said, trying to make adjustments before they do. I don't know if that was the case, but that was my mindset."
The Cardinals also went down 1-2-3 against Brian Wilson in the eighth, and Jansen took the mound in the ninth with a four-run cushion courtesy of Gonzalez's second long ball, which came off a hanging curve from John Axford.
St. Louis, which batted an anemic .148 as a group over the first four games of this set, had its offense come to life in its final at-bat.
Holliday dropped in a leadoff double on a fly ball that Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig lost in the sun, then crossed the plate on Adams' single to center. Jansen managed to strike out Yadier Molina and David Freese around a Jon Jay base hit, but served up an opposite-field single to Pete Kozma that knocked in Adams and made it a 6-4 game.
Chambers, pinch-hitting for Axford, couldn't continue the rally, however. The reserve outfielder fell behind in the count and ultimately took a called strike three to end the game.
Los Angeles opened the scoring by reaching Kelly for four singles during a two-run second. Juan Uribe shot a grounder up the middle in which Gonzalez beat Jay's throw home for a 1-0 edge, and Greinke later came through with a two-out hit through the left side of the infield that brought home Puig.
The lead didn't last long, however. Carpenter singled with one out in the top of the third before Carlos Beltran crushed Greinke's curve off the wall in center for an RBI triple. Holliday followed with a one-hop double to left- center that pulled the Cardinals even at 2-2, though Greinke managed to escape further damage by inducing a double-play grounder from Molina with runners at the corners and one out.
Molina also bounced into a twin-killing in his initial at-bat, getting Greinke out of a major jam in the top of the first. Singles by Carpenter and Holliday around a walk to Beltran loaded the bases with none out, but Greinke fanned Adams in front of Molina's slow grounder that was fielded by Uribe, who stepped on the third-base bag and fired a low throw to first that Gonzalez adeptly scooped out of the dirt.
"We had a couple opportunities to do something, and just couldn't make it happen," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "Those usually come back to haunt you, and today they did."
Kelly lasted five innings, permitting four runs on seven hits and striking out three without a walk.
The Cardinals fell to 1-5 all-time in Game 5's on the road in NLCS play ... The top four hitters in St. Louis' lineup (Carpenter, Beltran, Holliday, Adams) combined to go 8-for-15, while spots 5-9 were 2-for-20 ... Including the playoffs, Greinke has posted a 9-2 record with a 2.15 ERA in 15 Dodger Stadium starts this year ... Wilson has not allowed an earned run in all 16 of his career postseason appearances, spanning 17 2/3 innings ... All four of Crawford's homers during this postseason have come at home ... Comedian and Southern California native Will Ferrell introduced the Dodgers' starters prior to the start of the game.