LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers broke out the star power to prolong the National League Championship Series and send it back to the middle of the country, their World Series hopes still alive.
Zack Greinke, the Dodgers' $147 million pitcher, stood his ground under heavy pressure and an unrelenting California sun, and the Dodgers' bats finally showed some pop in a 6-4 win in Game 5 Wednesday afternoon. The Cardinals still lead three games to two and have yet to lose a home game in this series, but they'll have to get by Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw to wrap it up at Busch Stadium on Friday.
St. Louis blew a three games-to-one lead in last year's NLCS, but the Cardinals dropped the final two games of that series in San Francisco. Wednesday's game got dicey in the ninth inning after Yasiel Puig lost Matt Holliday's fly ball in the sun for a leadoff double. St. Louis had four hits in the inning and brought the go-ahead run to the plate, but Kenley Jansen struck out pinch hitter Adron Chambers on a 94-mph fastball to end it.
The Dodgers had muscled up in the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves, hitting seven home runs. But facing St. Louis's high-velocity pitching staff, that wasn't happening in this series. The Dodgers had not hit a home run through the first four games, but they bashed four in Game 5.
On a warm afternoon, balls were flying. In fact, they were flying a long way. Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford each launched home runs at least 15 rows deep into the right-field pavilion early. A.J. Ellis hit another solo shot in the seventh inning and Gonzalez piled on with his second in the eighth.
Gonzalez, who was accused by St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright of doing "Mickey Mouse stuff" on the bases in Game 3, punctuated his homer with a massive bat flip. As he approached the Dodgers' dugout, he did a "Mickey Mouse ears" gesture. Gonzalez, always known as one of the game's least-flashy stars, has shown a new side to his personality in this series.
The Dodgers invested a lot in Greinke, both finacially and, in Wednesday's case, emotionally. He did something hard. He pitched nearly as well against a lineup the second time facing it as the first. The Cardinals opened the game with a frightening rally, the kind that could have snuffed out the Dodgers' season.
With the help of two bloop hits and a walk, they loaded the bases with nobody out. But Greinke struck out Matt Adams and got Yadier Molina to hit a two-hopper to Juan Uribe, who stepped on third and bounced a throw to first. Gonzalez dug it out of the dirt for a double play.
The Dodgers scored a couple of runs in the second, but St. Louis answered quickly to tie it. Carlos Beltran smacked an RBI triple off the center-field wall and Matt Holliday followed by launching one into the left-center field gap.
Greinke gave up two runs over eight innings in Game 2, striking out 10 Cardinals. This time, he struck out only four, but he saved the Dodgers' season for at least another day.