The St. Louis Cardinals, the team given the least chance to advance to the World Series from the National League bracket because it didn't have enough home run power, on Monday rode the long ball to its second win in its division series pairing against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Matt Carpenter started the scoring with a solo homer to centerfield in the third inning. Then, after the Dodgers tied the game on a pair of line drives into the right field corner, Kolton Wong hit what turn out to be the deciding blow, a two-run shot in the bottom of the seventh.
St. Louis starter John Lackey pitched seven innings to get the win, scattering five hits and allowing one run. He struck out eight and walked one. It was enough to out-duel Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu who allowed one run over six innings before running out of gas and departing.
Reliever Scott Elbert came in to pitch the seventh and allowed two runs on three hits to take the loss.
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Trevor Rosenthal pitched the bottom of the ninth and seemed to have things well in hand when he struck out Matt Kemp looking and then quickly got to a two-strike count on Hanley Ramirez. But Ramirez was able to sneak a weakly hit ball back up the middle to put the tying run on base. Then, also with two strikes, Carl Crawford hit a flair up the middle that landed beyond the reach of Wong.
After a lengthy mound visit during which Rosenthal cleaned his spikes for a considerable amount of time with a tongue depressor, the Cardinals closer was able to retire the last two Dodgers hitters on fly balls to right field.
The win puts the Birds one step away from their ninth National League Championship appearance in the last 15 years.
They'll face likely 2014 Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw in Game 4 Tuesday. But, while Kershaw was dominant over the course of the regular season, he has given up seven runs in each of his last two appearances in the post season against St. Louis.
Carpenter's homer was his third of the playoffs. He hit eight during the entire regular season. The Cardinals lead all playoff teams with six homers so far this post season.