Cards get timely hits to push Dodgers to brink of elimination
Los Angeles, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Cardinals are hitting a measly .148 through four games of the National League Championship Series.
Somehow, they are one win away from their second World Series appearance in three years and fourth since 2004.
Shane Robinson hit an unlikely pinch-hit home run, Matt Holliday smacked a two-run shot and Lance Lynn pitched effectively into the sixth as St. Louis pulled out a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 for a firm series lead.
Lynn (2-0) worked around six hits and three walks over 5 1/3 innings and allowed just two runs to pick up his second win of the series and put the Cardinals on the brink of another Fall Classic.
St. Louis was also ahead 3-1 in last year's NLCS before the eventual champion San Francisco Giants rallied and stole the final three games.
The Dodgers are faced with a similar task and may have to play without star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who exited in the seventh inning after apparently aggravating his broken rib.
"He was having a little more trouble today. It got a little worse as the game went on," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of Ramirez's condition while not committing on his status for Game 5. "We'll see where he goes tomorrow, if he's able to get loose and basically we are at the same spot."
Despite Ramirez's injury, Los Angeles had the tying run at home plate in the ninth, and were looking for more postseason magic on the 25th anniversary of Kirk Gibson's infamous walk-off homer in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
The dangerous Yasiel Puig, however, grounded into a rally-killing double play, and Trevor Rosenthal struck out Juan Uribe to close out the win.
Mattingly needed five innings out of his bullpen Tuesday after pinch-hitting for Ricky Nolasco in a key spot in the fourth inning.
Nolasco (0-1), in his first postseason start, was charged with three runs on three hits -- the most notable a mammoth home run off the bat of Holliday that cleared the bullpen beyond the left-field wall in the third inning.
While Los Angeles' relievers were nearly flawless, it was another scoreless showing by St. Louis' that sealed the outcome. By recording 11 more outs without allowing a run, the Cardinals' bullpen has set a record with 14 scoreless innings to begin a League Championship Series.
Mike Matheny made several late changes and came up smelling roses each time.
The second-year manager pulled Lynn with a runner on first and one out in the sixth, and Seth Maness induced a ground ball to the left side from Uribe. Pete Kozma, who entered as a defensive replacement, made a backhand stab and threw to second off his back foot to start a nifty double play.
Maness came up second the next half-inning and was pinch-hit for by Robinson, who had just two at-bats this postseason and five career home runs in 386 regular season at-bats. Despite the thin resume, Robinson smacked a hanging changeup from J.P. Howell deep to left that carried above the wall and bounced into the bleachers for an improbable home run.
"We just had some good players put into position to do what they do, and they did it well tonight," Matheny said.
Carlos Martinez highlighted his two innings behind Maness by picking off Nick Punto at second in the seventh. Punto entered the game for the injured Ramirez and rendered his one-out double moot by inching too far off the bag and not recovering in time for Martinez's whirling pickoff.
"I don't know many guys that pull that off," Matheny said of Martinez. "To have the guts to wheel and let it fly like that in a game like we have right now, it's off the charts."
Rosenthal shook off Andre Ethier's leadoff single in the ninth to up his pristine postseason numbers to 14 2/3 innings of scoreless ball.
A potential closeout Game 5 is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
Zack Greinke is slated to start for LA, while the Cardinals turn to Joe Kelly for a Game 1 rematch that lasted 13 innings and saw Lynn come away victorious with two scoreless frames in relief.
Lynn, who came in with a 7.15 ERA in three postseason starts, put himself in harm's way in the second with a pair of two-out walks that loaded the bases.
The 26-year-old right-hander came away unscathed by catching Nolasco looking at strike three, and the Cardinals "erupted" for three runs in the third after scoring four total in the first three games of the series.
Daniel Descalso started the surge with a leadoff single, moved to second on Lynn's sacrifice bunt and scored on Matt Carpenter's double to the left-field gap to end St. Louis' 14-inning drought after getting blanked in Game 3.
The first home run of the series came two batters later and quieted an already subdued Dodger Stadium. Holliday, hitless in his previous 22 at-bats at Chavez Ravine, turned on a middle-in fastball and annihilated it for his 10th career postseason home run. The ball traveled an estimated 426 feet.
"(Nolasco) had pitched me in the at-bat before and I popped up," Holliday recalled. "So I had an idea that he might try to come in, and I wanted to try to get the bat head a little bit further out front, and I was able to do that."
The momentum shifted slightly in the fourth when the Dodgers plated a pair of runs on RBI singles up the middle by Puig and A.J. Ellis. Adrian Gonzalez and Ethier opened the inning with a double and walk, respectively.
Los Angeles failed to get more, however, as former Cardinal Skip Schumaker grounded into a double play to end the threat. Schumaker was pinch-hitting for Nolasco.
The Cardinals, who also blew a 3-1 NLCS lead against the Braves in 1996, can reach their 19th World Series Wednesday, which would tie San Francisco for the most by an NL franchise ... Only 12 teams have ever won a postseason series with a team average below .200 ... The Rangers held the previous LCS record with 13 scoreless innings by its bullpen to open the 2011 ALCS against the Tigers ... Cardinals third baseman David Freese played through a calf injury but went 0-for-3 ... Ethier and Puig each had two of LA's eight hits ... Ramirez struck out three times before exiting.
10/16 00:24:15 ET