Keyed by home runs by Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong and a strong start by deadline addition John Lackey, the Cardinals beat the Dodgers 3-1 in St. Louis Monday night to take a 2-1 lead in the National League Division Series, moving one game away from advancing to the National League Championship Series.
Lackey, who struck out eight in seven innings of work, and Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, who went six strong despite not having started since September 12 due to shoulder inflammation, spent the first six and a half innings locked in a crisp pitchers’ duel highlighted by fine defensive play on both sides. Carpenter staked Lackey to an early 1-0 lead in the third inning with his third home run in as many games in this series. The Dodgers tied things up in the top of the sixth when Yasiel Puig’s leadoff stand-up triple, which broke a string of seven straight strikeouts by the Dodgers center fielder, led to a run after a two-out Hanley Ramirez double.
The tie didn’t last long once Dodgers manager Don Mattingly turned things over to his bullpen in the bottom of the seventh. With J.P. Howell having coughed up a two-run lead in Game 2, Mattingly turned to the other lefty in his 'pen to face the lefty-heavy bottom of the Cardinals. That other lefty is Scott Elbert, who spent most of the 2014 season rehabbing from his June 2013 Tommy John surgery. He entered this game having thrown just five innings in the major leagues, including retiring the only two batters he faced in Game 1 of this series, since 2012.
Amid a brief downpour, righty Yadier Molina greeted Elbert with a first-pitch double into the left field corner. Lefty Jon Jay bunted Molina to third on the next pitch. Wong, the Cardinals lefty-swinging rookie second baseman, then deposited Elbert’s third pitch of the inning over the right field fence for a game-breaking two-run home run, giving the Cardinals a lead they would not relinquish.
The Dodgers will now turn to their ace and Game 1 goat Clayton Kershaw to save their season on three day’s rest in Game 4 Tuesday evening. The Cardinals will counter with sophomore Shelby Miller, who will be making his first postseason start.