ST. LOUIS — Matt Adams and the Cardinals are moving on. Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers are going home.
St. Louis tagged Kershaw in the seventh inning for the second straight time, riding Adams’ go-ahead, three-run homer to a 3-2 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday and a fourth consecutive trip to the NL Championship Series.
“I don’t think I touched the ground the whole way around the bases,” Adams said. “Definitely the highlight of my career. … I will never, ever forget this.”
Neither will Kershaw.
“The season ended and I was a big part of the reason why,” Kershaw said. “I can’t really put it into words, Just bad deja vu all over again.”
Following their 3-1 win in the best-of-five series, the Cardinals await San Francisco or Washington with their rotation well-rested for the NLCS, which starts Saturday. They would open at home against the Giants or at the Nationals.
Trevor Rosenthal allowed two runners in the ninth before getting Carl Crawford on a game-ending groundout for his third save of the series. At AT&T Park in San Francisco, fans cheered when the rival Dodgers were eliminated.
“It was awesome, everything we did throughout that game,” starter Shelby Miller said. “It was a heck of a game and a lot of fun, I know that.”
An overwhelming favourite to win his third NL Cy Young Award in four years, Kershaw’s October resume is a wreck.
Kershaw dropped to 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA in 11 post-season games, including three relief appearances early in his career. He has lost four straight starts to St. Louis over the past two postseasons.
“I’ve had success against them, too,” Kershaw said. “It just seems like one inning gets me every time. And obviously that’s not success.”
While the steady Cardinals advanced to their ninth NLCS in 15 years, the defeat was a huge disappointment for the NL West champion Dodgers, who finished the regular season with a $256 million payroll that was $40 million higher than any other team.
Los Angeles remains without a pennant since winning the 1988 World Series.
Manager Don Mattingly wasn’t about to second-guess leaving Kershaw in the game, especially with a bullpen that’s foundered. He wanted the lefty to get three more outs.
“It goes back to the same question: Is there anybody better, even on short rest, and even where he was at that point?” Mattingly said.
Kershaw started on three days’ rest for the second time in his post-season career. He was dominant into the seventh, as he was in Game 1, but again started the inning with three straight hits.
The third hit Tuesday came when Adams drove a curveball on Kershaw’s 102nd pitch into the right-centre bullpen to put St. Louis up 3-2. Adams thrust his hands over his head in the batter’s box then jumped several times as he ran down the first base line. A stunned Kershaw bent over on the mound, head hung and hands on his knees.
“I had a pretty good idea that it was gone,” Adams said.
Kershaw allowed one homer to left-handed hitters while going 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA in the regular season. He gave up two to the Cardinals, with Matt Carpenter connecting in the opener. The left-handed ace is 0-3 with a 9.72 ERA in his last three post-season appearances, including St. Louis’ clinching Game 6 victory in the NLCS last year.
Reliever Marco Gonzales earned his second victory of the series, after getting treated for a nosebleed. The rookie lefty got Adrian Gonzalez on a groundout to end the seventh and strand two runners.
Pat Neshek worked a perfect eighth for the second straight game and Rosenthal pitched the ninth for a second straight day, receiving two visits to the mound from catcher Yadier Molina and one from the pitching coach after a shaky start to the inning.
Kershaw had yielded only one hit through six innings and struck out nine, including three in a row in the sixth.
But Matt Holliday opened the seventh with a sharp single up the middle off second baseman Dee Gordon’s glove, and Jhonny Peralta lined another single before Adams homered off a left-hander for the first time since July 7.
The Cardinals had an NL-low 105 homers this season and left-hander batters had only eight homers against lefty pitching.
But lefties hit five off Dodgers southpaws in four playoff games.