It took the Dodgers five games to hit a home run in the NL championship series. Once Adrian Gonzalez powered up for the first one, their dormant offense broke loose.
Gonzalez homered twice and Zack Greinke came through with the clutch performance Los Angeles needed in a 6-4 victory over the Cardinals on Wednesday that trimmed St. Louis’ lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven playoff.
“Guys weren’t ready to lose today,” said Carl Crawford, who also went deep to help the Dodgers save their season.
Los Angeles held on in the ninth, when St. Louis scored twice off closer Kenley Jansen before he struck out pinch-hitter Adron Chambers with two on to end it.
The series shifts back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Friday night, with ace Clayton Kershaw scheduled to start for Los Angeles against rookie Michael Wacha.
When those two squared off in Game 2, the Cardinals won 1-0 on an unearned run.
“We’ve kind of become America’s team because everyone wants to see a seventh game,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Probably even the fans in St. Louis would like to see a seventh game, so I figure that everybody’s for us to win on Friday night.”
The Cardinals also led last year’s NLCS 3-1 before losing three straight games to the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
“We’re looking to do the same thing,” Gonzalez said.
Desperate to avoid elimination, the Dodgers brought in some Hollywood star power for pregame introductions. Will Ferrell announced their lineup and lent a comic spin to each player’s name, capping it by introducing Greinke as “today’s winning pitcher.”
Ferrell knew what he was talking about.
Greinke got into a bases-loaded jam with none out in the first but escaped with no damage. From there, he pitched seven strong innings and even delivered an RBI single.
“That was big. I was real nervous out there with that situation,” Greinke said.
A.J. Ellis also homered at Dodger Stadium, where it is tougher to clear the fences in the heavy night air.
Helped by playing in 82-degree heat on a sunny afternoon, the Dodgers rediscovered their power stroke just in time to extend the series. They hit .274 in three games at home after batting .184 during the first two games in St. Louis.
“It was just one of those days that we were a little better, got some runs, good feeling,” Mattingly said.
The Dodgers regrouped after Greinke squandered an early 2-0 lead just as he did in Game 1, which Los Angeles lost 3-2 in 13 innings on the road.
After neither team homered in the first three games for the first time in NLCS history, the big bats came out. The Cardinals used a two-run homer by Matt Holliday and a solo shot from pinch-hitter Shane Robinson to win 4-2 on Tuesday night.
This time, Gonzalez went 3 for 4 with two solo homers and three runs scored. His two-out shot in the eighth made it 6-2.
“We have a team that can bounce back and do some pretty incredible things out there,” he said.
The Cardinals tied it at 2 in the third on Carlos Beltran’s RBI triple and Holliday’s run-scoring double before Yadier Molina grounded into his second inning-ending double play against Greinke.
“He wasn’t as sharp as he was the first time we faced him,” Beltran said. “But guys like that, the best guys in the game, they’re able to regroup and find a way to help their team win.”