LOS ANGELES -- Home runs by Matt Holliday and Shane Robinson, the first home runs of the National League Championship Series, powered the Cardinals to a 4-2 win over the Dodgers in Game 4 Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, giving St. Louis a 3-1 series lead to push the Dodgers to the precipice of elimination.
To make matters worse Hanley Ramirez, playing with a hairline fracture in the eighth rib on his left side, left the game after six innings. He struck out in all three of his plate appearances on Tuesday and was in obvious pain both in the batters box and in the field.
There was a weird energy to Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night. In a game the Dodgers never led, the crowd was more anticipatory than alive for most of the contest. There were ups and downs of course, highlighted by Nick Punto's double in the seventh followed by him getting immediately picked off second base. Chris Withrow had his highs and lows with two scoreless, hitless innings of relief, which also included three walks, a wild pitch, a balk, and catcher's interference.
There was the weird if not shocking double-switch in the eighth, when Carlos Marmol was brought in to pitch and Michael Young to play shortstop, a sentence that seems as unrecognizable and incoherent now, in the NLCS, as it did months ago, when neither were on the team.
Making his first start in 20 days and his first appearance in 16 days, Ricky Nolasco didn't look rusty at the start, retiring six of his seven batters face in the first two innings. Daniel Descalso singled to open the third for the first hit off Nolasco. Matt Carpenter followed with an RBI double, then Holliday hit a ball into the back of the Dodgers bullpen in left field for a two-run shot and a 3-0 Cardinals lead.
The announced distance of 426 feet for Holliday's home run seemed woefully short.
The Dodgers pulled closer by stringing together three hits of their own in the fourth inning, including RBI singles by Yasiel Puig and A.J. Ellis to make it 3-2 St. Louis.
That was all the Dodgers would score against Lance Lynn, who pitched into the sixth inning for his longest career postseason outing. If the Dodgers do end up losing this series, they will look back with great regret that they were unable to score more than two runs against both Lynn and Joe Kelly (in Game 1).
A single by Puig chased Lynn after 5⅓ innings, but Seth Maness entered in relief for the Cardinals and did what he did best. Juan Uribe grounded to shortstop Pete Kozma, who just entered the game in a double switch. Kozma made a fantastic stop to start an inning-ending double play, a Maness specialty.
On the season Maness induced 16 double plays in 62 innings, second only among major league relief pitchers to Jim Johnson of the Orioles, with 17 double plays in 70⅓ innings.
Robinson added a pinch-hit home run off the top of the left field wall in the seventh off J.P Howell to widen the Cardinals advantage.
The Dodgers will send Zack Greinke to the mound trying to stave off elimination in Game 5, a 1:07 p.m. PT start on Wednesday afternoon. Kelly gets the ball for the Cardinals, in a rematch of Game 1.
This is the eighth time the Dodgers have trailed 3-1 in a best-of-7 series. They have lost the previous seven series (World Series in 1916, 1941, 1949, 1974, 1977; NLCS in 2008, 2009), and are 1-6 in Game 5 in those situations (the win came in 1977).
Game 4 particulars
Home runs: Matt Holliday (1), Shane Robinson (1)
WP - Lance Lynn (2-1): 5⅓ IP, 6 hits, 2 runs, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts
LP - Ricky Nolasco (0-1): 4 IP, 3 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
Sv - Trevor Rosenthal (3): 1 IP, 1 hit