The St. Louis Cardinals wasted two scoring chances early and came up short with a ninth-inning rally, losing 6-4 to the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday.
The frustrating loss for St. Louis forces a Game 6 in the National League Championship Series Friday at Busch Stadium
Adrian Gonzalez hit two homers and Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis hit one each for the Dodgers, who escaped unscathed in a bases-loaded, none-out predicament in the first inning.
"You're going to have games where you just can't make it happen," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said after St. Louis missed a chance to close out the series. "We've got to figure out a way to get it done the next time we get a chance."
Game 6 will be at 7:37 p.m. Friday, pitting Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw against Cardinals rookie phenom Michael Wacha. The Redbirds lead the series 3-2.
With the game tied at 2, Gonzalez hit a two-out solo homer off losing Cardinals starter Joe Kelly in the third. Crawford added a one-out solo shot off Kelly in the fifth. Ellis hit a one-out solo homer off Edward Mujica in the seventh. And Gonzalez made it a two-homer day with a solo blast off John Axford in the eighth.
Matt Adams and Pete Kozma had RBI singles as the Cardinals tried to pull even in the ninth. But Adron Chambers, batting with the tying runs on base with two out, took a called third strike from Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to end the game.
Carlos Beltran had an RBI triple and Matt Holliday an RBI double in the Cards' half of the third inning, but Gonzalez blunted that with his two-out homer off Kelly in the bottom of the inning. It could have been worse for the Cards; Hanley Ramirez hit into a double play to erase a baserunner just before Gonzalez came to the plate.
Crawford's homer came off Kelly with one out in the fifth, restoring a two-run lead for L.A. that the Dodgers had forged in the second.
Beltran hit a 394-foot triple to score Matt Carpenter after his one-out single in the top of the third, and Holliday lashed a 3-1 pitch from Dodgers winning pitcher Zack Greinke into left center.
Beltran's blow hit just below the top of the center-field wall right at the 395-foot sign.
After Holliday's hit, Adams -- 1-for-16 at that point -- shattered his bat on an infield single in front of the Dodgers shift, with second baseman Mark Ellis playing so deep he didn't have a play on the ball.
But Yadier Molina hit into a 1-4-3 double play to end the inning. He'd hit into a 5-3 double play in the first, when the Cards loaded the bases with none out and failed to score.
"Our guys have been so good all season long in that situation (runners in scoring position), but it does happen," Matheny said in an MLB press conference after the game. "They're not going to be 100 percent good. You do give credit when they're able to do those and turn them around. But it is a momentum shift, there is no question."
Greinke retired the last 13 Cardinals hitters to face him, starting with Molina's second double-play grounder in the third.
Afterward, he said the first inning escape played a huge role in the game's outcome.
"It was huge. That was big," Greinke said. "I was real nervous out there with that situation, and trying to make a good pitch and get Adams to chase ...
"With Molina, there is nothing you could do that you know is going to work. He can adjust to anything, and ... I kind of got lucky, I guess. I made a good pitch, but still even with a good pitch he can hurt you. It just worked out."
Greinke gave up the two runs on six hits in seven innings, walking one and striking out four. Kelly gave up four runs on seven hits in five innings, striking out three.
Juan Uribe and Greinke had RBI singles off Kelly in the second inning, putting the Dodgers ahead in the pivotal playoff contest.
Kelly gave up a leadoff single by Gonzalez in the second, one-out singles by Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe, and a two-out single by Greinke.
The Cardinals fired blanks after loading the bases with none out against Greinke in the first inning.
Carpenter and Holliday had bloop singles to left on each side of a walk to Beltran, but Greinke struck out Adams and got Molina to bounce into a 5-3 double play.
The Redbirds have yet to score in the first inning of a postseason game this year, a stretch of 10 games.
A win for the Dodgers sends the series back to St. Louis for a Game 6 at 7:37 p.m. Friday, with a 7:37 p.m. Game 7 if necessary on Saturday.
With likely Cy Young Award winner on the mound for the Dodgers, Gonzalez said they have a simple game plan in place.
"Our focus for Game 6 is to score runs for Kershaw and let him do his thing," Gonzalez said. "So if we can give Kershaw some run support, we're pretty confident.