ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals tagged Clayton Kershaw in the seventh inning for the second straight time, riding Matt Adams’ go-ahead, three-run homer to a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday and a fourth consecutive trip to the NL Championship Series.
Following their 3-1 win in the best-of-five series, the Cardinals await San Francisco or Washington with their rotation well-rested for the NLCS, which starts Saturday. They would open at home against the Giants or at the Nationals.
Trevor Rosenthal allowed two runners in the ninth before getting Carl Crawford on a game-ending groundout for his third save of the series. At AT&T Park in San Francisco, fans cheered when the rival Dodgers were eliminated.
An overwhelming favorite to win his third NL Cy Young Award in four years, Kershaw’s October resume is a wreck.
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.
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.
Kershaw started on three days’ rest for the second time in his postseason career. He was dominant into the seventh, as he was in Game 1, but again started the inning with three straight hits.
The third hit Tuesday came when Adams drove a curveball on Kershaw’s 102nd pitch into the right-center bullpen to put St. Louis up 3-2. Adams thrust his hands over his head in the batter’s box then jumped several times as he ran down the first base line. A stunned Kershaw bent over on the mound, head hung and hands on his knees.
“I had a pretty good idea that it was gone,” Adams said.
Kershaw allowed one homer to left-handed hitters while going 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA in the regular season. He gave up two to the Cardinals, with Matt Carpenter connecting in the opener. The left-handed ace is 0-3 with a 9.72 ERA in his last three postseason appearances, including St. Louis’ clinching Game 6 victory in the NLCS last year.
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.
Pat Neshek worked a perfect eighth for the second straight game and Rosenthal pitched the ninth for a second straight day, receiving two visits to the mound from catcher Yadier Molina and one from the pitching coach after a shaky start to the inning.
Kershaw had yielded only one hit through six innings and struck out nine, including three in a row in the sixth.
But Matt Holliday opened the seventh with a sharp single up the middle off second baseman Dee Gordon’s glove, and Jhonny Peralta lined another single before Adams homered off a left-hander for the first time since July 7.
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.
Shelby Miller matched Kershaw into the sixth, when the Dodgers started the inning with two hits. They scored a run on Matt Kemp’s double-play grounder and added another on Juan Uribe’s RBI single against Seth Maness.
But Los Angeles wasted a chance to add on when Andre Ethier, playing in place of Yasiel Puig, was picked off third by Molina — a call overturned by video review.
Miller went 5 2-3 innings in his first postseason start.
Both pitchers likely benefited the first few innings from late-afternoon shadows mixed with brilliant sunlight.
Kershaw piled up five strikeouts the first time through the order. The Cardinals got the ball out of the infield for the first time on Carpenter’s routine fly on a checked swing leading off the fourth.
Cardinals: Adam 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.
Scott Rolen, who earned three of his seven Gold Gloves at third base and was a key member of two World Series teams, threw out the first pitch.