Sports

MLB Playoffs

Cardinals take down Dodgers, advance to NLCS

By Mike Rutsey, Toronto Sun

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams celebrates after hitting a three-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 7th inning during Game 4 of their 2014 NLDS at Busch Stadium. (SCOTT ROVAK/USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams celebrates after hitting a three-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 7th inning during Game 4 of their 2014 NLDS at Busch Stadium. (SCOTT ROVAK/USA TODAY Sports)

ST. LOUIS - 

There is something unexplainable, unimaginable that occurs when Clayton Kershaw runs up against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Something not of this world.

How else to try and rationalize it?

This season Kershaw lost all of three games in the regular season, and here in the Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals he loses twice.

Through six innings Tuesday, Kershaw was absolutely dominating, blanking the Cardinals on one scratch single.

Taking the mound in the seventh, Kershaw held a 2-0 lead and looked invincible, just as he looked back in Game 1 when he held a 6-2 lead heading into the seventh inning.

Tragedy soon would strike the Dodgers, ecstasy soon would engulf Bush Stadium.

Out of nowhere the Cardinals erupted for three consecutive hits, two singles and then a three-run shot from left-handed hitting Matt Adams, a line drive that zoomed into the Cardinals bullpen just out of reach of a leaping Carl Crawford in left and the resulting roar nearly shook Busch Stadium to the ground.

The result was a mind-bending 3-2 triumph for the Cardinals which clinched their Division Series 3-1 and sent them into the NLCS for a fourth consecutive season.

Adams was the unlikely star for St. Louis. Although he led the team with a .288 batting average this season, he struggled against left-handers. In 130 plate appearances against lefties, Adams hit .190 with three home runs.

The one off Kershaw was the biggest of his career.

"It was bad deja vu all over again," Kershaw said of the outcome, adding that he wasn't tiring in the seventh.

Adams? He was beyond ecstatic.

"I don't think I touched the ground the whole way around," Adams said of his run around the bases after his blast. "This guy sitting beside me (Shelby Miller) kept us in the game. It just felt good for us to take the lead right there in the seventh.

"It was a curveball that stayed up in the zone. I saw it pop up out of his hand and I knew I was going to get a good one to swing at."

Adams didn't miss.

The Dodgers' great left-hander was 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA in the regular season, but in Game 1 of this series he came apart in the seventh like a cardboard suitcase and in 6.2 innings he allowed an unheard-of eight runs.

"It's definitely not easy to swallow, especially when we had such a big lead and we should be up 2-0 right now," Kershaw said of his meltdown.

For whatever reason, though, the Cardinals of late have had his number. Last year in the playoffs, the Cardinals nailed him for seven runs over four innings.

Over his previous eight starts against the Cardinals, counting post-season play, Kershaw was 1-6. In the post-season alone he is 0-3 vs. St. Louis.

This day he came out firing, dominating through six innings. Then, just like in Game 1, it all fell apart in the seventh and for a second consecutive season, the Dodgers are kicked to the curb.

So what is it about the Cardinals and Kershaw, and how much of an accomplishment is it to beat him twice in the series?

"Clayton Kershaw is probably the guy that's going to win the MVP this year and Cy Young," Miller said. "There's no doubt that he's one of the best pitchers in the game and we know that as a team. Going into the start today I knew that it was going to be a battle against him.

"It shows that our team never gives up. We were down 6-2 (in Game 1) and came back to win that game. I give up two runs in the sixth and we come back and score three. Our team, we just never give up. We're going to play to the very last out, no matter who the opponent is.

"But to do it against LA, a tough team, against a really tough pitcher in this fashion is pretty fun to watch."

Well, depends on your point of view.

So once again it's the Cardinals moving on to the NLCS. They won three out of four and twice beat the best pitcher in the game.

They more than earned their ticket.

PUIG ON THE PINE

With the season on the line in Game 4, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly decided to sit Yasiel Puig on the bench and instead went with left-handed hitting Andre Ethier in centre field.

It was a gutsy move in that Puig has the ability to lift his team when hot. Right now, though, Puig looks lost at the plate. In the opening three games he went 3-for-12 with eight strikeouts, including a stretch of seven consecutive whiffs in a row.

"Pretty simple today, we just feel like this gives us the best chance to win today," Mattingly said of his decision. "We just feel that Andre is a better option today. We're always very confident with Andre. The only reason that Andre is not playing every day is because we have an abundance of outfielders and at some point we had to make a choice. Carl (Crawford) was kind of that choice.

"It's not about anything bad with Yasiel. It's just that I feel like this gives us a better chance."

In the ninth inning, Puig came into the game as a pinch-runner and got as far as second base. But with two out and two on closer Trevor Rosenthal closed it out by getting Crawford to ground into a fielder's choice.

MATTINGLY SUPPORTS HIS PITCHER

If Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, why can’t he beat the Cardinals?

He lost both times he faced them in this series and in post-season play if 0-3 lifetime against them.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was a little snippy when asked.

“I don’t know how much success that was,” Mattingly shot back. “He gave up one hit through six. I know he’s given up some runs. (Michael) Wacha beats him 1‑0 last year.

“He’s pitching really good through major parts of that game. He has the one inning and then he’s pitching really good through major parts in LA. And then has one bad inning (both times the seventh).

“They have a good club. They have guys that are professionals. The more times you get through the order, you get through (Matt) Holliday three times, you’re getting into Jhonny (Peralta) and (Yadier) Molina and those guys. The third time through the order, it always gets tougher and tougher because you’ve got to change your mix. And they’ve seen you three times.

“So I don’t know if it’s necessarily that they have any kind of command over Clayton. I think he’s pitched really good against them, other than an inning here or an inning there.”

He’s pitched well enough to be 0-3.


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