ST. LOUIS (AP) - For the second straight time, the lefty generally acknowledged as the best pitcher in baseball was no match for a team that's made a habit of coming alive this time of the year.
Matt Adams' drive sent Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers packing.
While celebrating a 3-2 victory in Game 4 on Tuesday that put the franchise in the NL Championship Series for the fourth straight year, St. Louis Cardinals teammates bathed in champagne said they'd counted on the burly first baseman nicknamed Big City.
''We were jumping around, hitting our heads in the dugout, going crazy,'' ace Adam Wainwright said. ''I just had a feeling the big fellow was going to come through. I called it.''
Adams could barely contain his enthusiasm after his first homer against a left-hander since July 7, this one against a pitcher who was 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA. Adams thrust both arms in the air while still in the batter's box and added a couple of big hops that made for an entertaining trot around the bases.
''Definitely the highlight of my career,'' he said. ''I will never, ever forget this.''
The Cardinals have home-field advantage against the Giants plus a rested rotation for a best-of-seven NLCS that starts Saturday at Busch Stadium. San Francisco is in the NLCS for the third time in five seasons and overcame a 3-1 series deficit against the Cardinals in 2012 en route to a World Series title.
''Just to be a part of all this is amazing,'' said Shelby Miller, who made his first career postseason start and allowed two runs in 5 2-3 innings. ''The way we came out and finished this game, you couldn't ask for anything more.''
Before surrendering three straight hits and a two-run lead to open the seventh, Kershaw had shut down St. Louis. Stunned by Adams' drive, he bent at the waist with his hands on his knees.
The Cardinals sent the Dodgers home for the second postseason in a row with a win over Kershaw. Last year it was in Game 6 of the NLCS.
Kershaw couldn't hold a 6-1 lead in Game 1 of this series, also taking a beating in the seventh.
''The season ended and I was a big part of the reason why,'' Kershaw said. ''I can't really put it into words, just bad deja vu all over again.''
The Dodgers had two on in the ninth before Trevor Rosenthal earned his third save of the series, retiring Carl Crawford on a force out for the final out. At AT&T Park in San Francisco, fans cheered when the rival Dodgers were eliminated.
Kershaw dropped to 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA in 11 postseason games, including three relief appearances early in his career. He has lost four straight starts to St. Louis over the past two postseasons.
''I've had success against them, too,'' Kershaw said. ''It just seems like one inning gets me every time. And obviously that's not success.''
While the steady Cardinals advanced to their ninth NLCS in 15 years, the defeat was a huge disappointment for the NL West champion Dodgers, who finished the regular season with a $256 million payroll that was $40 million higher than any other team.
Los Angeles remains without a pennant since winning the 1988 World Series.
''It's awful,'' catcher A.J. Ellis said. ''It's devastating. It just kind of rehashes those old memories.''
Manager Don Mattingly defended his decision to let Kershaw, pitching on three days' rest for just the second time in his career, work the seventh. He wanted three more outs from Kershaw and was hesitant to tap middle relief that was unreliable throughout the series.
''It goes back to the same question: Is there anybody better, even on short rest, and even where he was at that point?'' Mattingly said.
Kershaw allowed one homer to left-handed batters in the regular season but gave up two to the Cardinals, with Matt Carpenter connecting in the opener. He's 0-3 with a 9.72 ERA in his last three postseason appearances, all against St. Louis.
Reliever Marco Gonzales earned his second victory of the series, after getting treated for a nosebleed. The rookie lefty got Adrian Gonzalez on a groundout to end the seventh and strand two runners.
The Cardinals had an NL-low 105 homers this season and left-hander batters had only eight homers against lefty pitching. But lefties hit five off Dodgers southpaws in four playoff games.
The Dodgers took the lead in the sixth with two hits and a double-play groundout, and made it 2-0 on Juan Uribe's single off Seth Maness. They missed a chance to add on when catcher Yadier Molina quickly recovered a pitch in the dirt and picked off Andre Ethier at third.
Cardinals: Wainwright gets extra rest after a Game 1 dud when he was charged with six runs in 4 1-3 innings at Dodger Stadium. He was 5-0 with a 1.38 ERA in September with two complete games, one of them a shutout.