Cardinals Ride John Lackey and Two Home Runs to Win Over Dodgers

Dodgers

Dodgers

ST. LOUIS — The veteran right-hander John Lackey wore a different shade of red last October when he pitched the Boston Red Sox to a World Series title in Game 6. His opponent that night in New England was the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that traded for him this summer.

True to form, Lackey delivered Monday, tossing seven innings of one-run ball as the Cardinals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3-1, to grab a two-games-to-one lead in this best-of-five National League division series.

The Dodgers threatened in the ninth inning against closer Trevor Rosenthal. Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford hit back-to-back one-out singles before Juan Uribe and A.J. Ellis both flied harmlessly to right.

The big blow of the game came from Kolten Wong, another key player from last year’s World Series. Wong, who was picked off first base to end Game 4, launched a two-run home run to break a 1-1 tie in the seventh.

Lackey is no stranger to the bright lights of October. He burst onto the scene in 2002, winning Game 7 of the World Series as a rookie for the Angels. The years have passed, but Lackey continues to be a postseason master. He popped low-90s fastballs and mixed an array of breaking balls to keep the Dodgers off balance. He allowed five hits, walked one and struck out seven.

“There’s definitely a different energy, a different adrenaline level that can take you to special places when you use it the right way,” Lackey said of postseason baseball. “The atmosphere tonight was great. You feel it and you feed off it and you channel it.”

He was matched, though, for much of the night by Hyun-jin Ryu, who had pitched only a single inning over the last month because of a shoulder injury. Ryu nevertheless fared well without the benefit of a rehabilitation stint in just his third postseason start and first on the road. He allowed one run, his fastball sharp and his breaking ball looping for six innings.

But as soon as Ryu turned the game over to the Dodgers’ suspect bullpen, the Cardinals’ bats came to life. Yadier Molina led off the seventh against the left-hander Scott Elbert, a Joplin, Mo., native, with a hard double to left. After he was sacrificed to third, Wong, a left-handed batter, delivered his home run on the first pitch he saw.

“The pickoff last year definitely crushed me for a long time into the off-season,” Wong said. “I’m not thankful for it, but I know it made me stronger as a person as a player.”

Of Elbert, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said: “He’s in there to get lefties out. That’s why we put him on the roster.”

Matt Carpenter, fast becoming a playoff legend, opened the scoring in the third inning when he deposited a 1-2 off-speed pitch from Ryu into the right-center stands for his third home run of the series.

Carpenter’s homer stood until the Dodgers got to Lackey in the sixth. Yasiel Puig ended a stretch of seven consecutive strikeouts with a leadoff triple to right field. After Adrian Gonzalez flied out to shallow left field and Matt Kemp struck out, the Dodgers finally got a big hit when Ramirez lashed a double down the right-field line to tie the game.

After the game, Kemp called the home-plate umpire Dale Scott’s strike zone the worst he had ever seen.

Ellis, the Dodgers’ catcher, added: “He was really picking at that outside corner. They were getting a lot of calls out there.”

Umpiring aside, the Cardinals, making their 11th trip to the postseason in the last 15 seasons, would advance to their fourth consecutive N.L. Championship Series with a victory in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

The Dodgers played Game 3 knowing their ace, Clayton Kershaw, would take the mound in Game 4. Before the game, Mattingly announced Dan Haren would give way to Kershaw for the start, despite Kershaw’s having allowed eight runs and squandering a 6-1 lead in Game 1. The prohibitive Cy Young Award favorite, Kershaw now has a clear task: to extend the Dodgers’ season.

Kershaw said Monday that he had not watched tape of Game 1 and that he did not learn anything new about the Cardinals.

“Obviously, after as bad as I pitched in Game 1, I wasn’t going to go in there and say, ‘I want the ball,’ ” Kershaw said. “I was definitely ready for it and definitely wanted to do it, just waiting for the opportunity.”

Added Mattingly: “You don’t get to where you are — you don’t win four E.R.A. titles, and it’s going to end up three out of the last four Cy Youngs — just by when anything goes bad, you curl up and go away. These guys go to work; they come back. They keep working, and they keep going. So this is a different cat.”

Advertisements