Cardinals can’t cash in on Game 1 chances

Randy Wolf and the Dodgers bullpen outpitched St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter, earning Los Angeles a 5-3 victory over the Cardinals on Wednesday night in an NL playoff opener full of missed chances for both teams.

Los Angeles Dodgers Manny Ramirez

Los Angeles Dodgers Manny Ramirez

Dodgers 5 Cardinals 3

LOS ANGELES — Randy Wolf and the Dodgers bullpen outpitched St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter, earning Los Angeles a 5-3 victory over the Cardinals on Wednesday night in an NL playoff opener full of missed chances for both teams.

Pitching in the playoffs for the first time in his 11-year career, Wolf lasted 3 2-3 innings against Carpenter, who came in with a career 5-1 record and 2.53 earned run average in the post-season.

Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer off Carpenter in the first inning, giving the NL West champions the lead for good.

The teams set a division series record by stranding a combined 30 runners. The Dodgers left 16, including 12 in scoring position.

Offence was at a premium for both teams’ sluggers. The Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez went 1 for 4 with double and a walk, while Albert Pujols was 0-for-3 with two intentional walks for the NL Central champion Cardinals.

Wolf was the Dodgers’ most consistent starter this season, with a 2.98 ERA in the second half and just one loss since Aug. 1 for his hometown team. Against the Cardinals, the left-hander from the San Fernando Valley allowed two runs and six hits, walked five and struck out two.

Jeff Weaver, who relieved Wolf, got the victory, allowing one hit in 1 1-3 innings and striking out one. Jonathan Broxton pitched 1 1-3 innings earn the save.

Game 2 is Thursday at Dodger Stadium, with Clayton Kershaw, another playoff rookie, starting for Los Angeles against 19-game winner Adam Wainwright. Only once this season when Carpenter and Wainwright started back-to-back did St. Louis lose both games.

Carpenter, who was the NL’s ERA leader while going 17-4 and went 2-0 against the Dodgers this season, gave up four runs and nine hits in five innings. The right-hander walked four and struck out three. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth when Casey Blake lined out to right.

The Cardinals reduced their deficit to 5-3 in the ninth, getting a two-out RBI double from Mark DeRosa. Broxton then struck out Rick Ankiel to end it.

The Dodgers made it 3-1 in the bottom of the third when Ethier was hit by a pitch, moved up on a walk to Ramirez and took third on James Loney’s flyout.

Third baseman Mark DeRosa made a diving, backhanded stop of Blake’s infield hit down the line, but his throw to second sailed into right field.

Wolf let St. Louis load the bases with no outs in the first. But he allowed just one run on Ryan Ludwick’s bloop single to centre between Kemp and Ronnie Belliard, and then Kemp put Los Angeles ahead.

The Dodgers needed a mere three pitches to take a 2-1 lead. Rafael Furcal led off with a single and Kemp sent Carpenter’s third pitch over the wall in right centre for his first post-season homer.

Furcal extended Los Angeles’ lead to 4-2 in the fifth with a sacrifice fly.

Los Angeles loaded the bases again in the sixth, and Kyle McClellan hit Russell Martin to force in Ethier with the Dodgers’ fifth run. Pinch-hitter Jim Thome struck out with the bases loaded, ending the inning.