ST. LOUIS — Kolten Wong hit a two-run homer to snap a seventh-inning tie, Matt Carpenter went deep for the third straight game and John Lackey lived up to his big-game reputation as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1 Monday night to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five NL Division Series.
Facing elimination in St. Louis for the second consecutive post-season, the Dodgers will turn to ace Clayton Kershaw on short rest Tuesday night in Game 4. Shelby Miller makes his first career post-season start for the Cardinals, one win from a fourth straight trip to the NL Championship Series.
The Cardinals finished off Los Angeles in a six-game NLCS last fall, knocking out Kershaw in the fifth inning of a 9-0 blowout in the final game.
Two runners reached against Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth before he earned his second save of the series — with an assist from the grounds crew on a rainy night.
With two runners on, Rosenthal missed badly on consecutive pitches to Juan Uribe. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and manager Mike Matheny went to the mound, and Matheny motioned toward plate umpire Dale Scott.
The grounds crew was called out to apply a drying agent and rake the mound. Rosenthal threw a pair of practice pitches and found his footing, retiring the next two batters on flies to right for his sixth career post-season save.
Hanley Ramirez had three of the Dodgers’ seven hits, including an RBI double in the sixth.
St. Louis hit 105 homers in the regular season, the second-lowest total in the majors, ahead of only Kansas City. But the Cardinals have shown plenty of power in the playoffs.
Carpenter connected in the third and then Wong, the rookie second baseman who was picked off to end a World Series loss against Boston last year, hit a two-run shot off loser Scott Elbert to put the Cardinals ahead 3-1.
“The season is so long. I never anticipated how long a full major league season is,” Wong said.
“Just ups and downs of not producing and getting hurt really struck me hard this year, but all in all it was a great year. I learned a lot and I’m just excited to be here right now.”
Carpenter and Albert Pujols are the only Cardinals players to homer in three consecutive post-season games. Pujols did it in 2004, the first two in the NL Division Series and the third in the NLCS.
Heavy rain fell briefly in the bottom of the seventh, when Molina greeted Elbert with a double for his second hit. Molina advanced on a sacrifice before Wong drove the next pitch into the Cardinals’ bullpen in right-centre.
Carpenter had eight homers in the regular season and had never connected in consecutive games before these playoffs. He hammered a 1-2 pitch from Hyun-Jin Ryu over the right-centre wall leading off the third.
The Cardinals tied for the NL lead with 51 home wins while the Dodgers were the best road team at 49-32.
Yasiel Puig struck out in seven consecutive at-bats before hitting a leadoff triple in the sixth. Lackey almost got out of it, getting Adrian Gonzalez on a fly to shallow left and striking out Matt Kemp before Ramirez doubled to tie it.
Lackey gave up one run and five hits in seven innings, striking out eight. The veteran right-hander improved to 7-5 in post-season play, including three wins for Boston last year — one against St. Louis in the World Series.
The crowd of 47,574 was the largest for a baseball game at 9-year-old Busch Stadium, topped only by 48,263 for a soccer friendly between Manchester City and Chelsea in May 2013 with seating on the field and in the bullpens.
Before the game, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly announced Kershaw will start Game 4 on three days’ rest instead of Dan Haren, the only way Los Angeles has a chance to get two starts apiece in the series out of its twin aces. Zack Greinke would start Game 5 on regular rest in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
Kershaw was 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA and is a heavy favourite to win his third NL Cy Young Award, but he blew a 6-1 lead in the Cardinals’ 10-9 victory in Game 1.