Saturday night looked like a repeat of many recent performances, when 20 of 21 Dodgers batters were retired by the Cardinals. But a dash of Luis Cruz was the highlight of three consecutive two-out hits in the ninth inning, giving the Dodgers a 4-3 win over the Cardinals and pulling them even for the second wild card in the National League.
Both Dodgers runs in the ninth inning were scored by pinch runners.
Down 3-2 in the ninth inning with two outs, Andre Ethier singled then was replaced on the bases by Dee Gordon, who was thrown out by Yadier Molina on Thursday night. But Gordon got his bag Saturday night, advancing to second for Cruz, who doubled him home by driving a ball over the head of John Jay in center field.
For most of the night, it looked like Allen Craig would be the hero, as he drove home all three Cardinals runs with a pair of two-out hits. With Matt Holliday on first base and two outs in the first inning, Craig deposited a pitch into the pavilion in left center field for his 21st home run of the season and a 2-0 Cardinals advantage.
The Dodgers struck back with a run of their own in the first inning when Adrian Gonzalez singled home Shane Victorino. It marked the third time in four games that Gonzalez has driven in at least one run in the first inning.
Mark Ellis hit a line drive home run into the left field seats in between the bullpen and the foul pole to lead off the third inning to tie the game at 2-2, his sixth home run of the season.
But Craig struck again in the sixth inning. With runners on first and second base and two outs, he hit a single to drive home pitcher Jaime Garcia for what turned out to be the winning score.
Garcia on the mound lasted six innings, allowing just three hits and two runs, with one run unearned.
After Ellis homered in the third, Victorino walked, then stole his second base of the night against Molina. But he was stranded, and after the walk Cardinals pitchers retired 20 of the 21 Dodgers batters, including the 14 in a row, before Ethier singled with two outs in the ninth inning.
The only batter to reach base during that span was pitcher Joe Blanton, who reached via error in the fifth inning.
Matt Kemp, who missed two games last weekend in San Francisco with left shoulder inflammation and what turned out to be a frayed labrum, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Saturday. He was in a 3-for-30 slump from the time he crashed into the wall in Colorado to his missed games last weekend, but since his return Kemp is just 2-for-18, pushing his post wall-crash slump to 5-for-48.
But Kemp may have helped save an insurance run in the top of the ninth when he threw out Molina, trying to stretch a double into a triple.
The Dodgers will try to win the series on Sunday afternoon and take the outright lead for the second wild card spot. Clayton Kershaw was originally scheduled to pitch but that isn't going to happen. Instead, Stephen Fife starts in his place for the Dodgers, facing Adam Wainwright for the Cardinals.
Home Runs: Mark Ellis (6); Allen Craig (21)
WP - Ronald Belisario (6-1): 1 1/3 IP, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 strikeout
LP - Jason Motte (4-5): 2/3 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs, 1 strikeout