Baseball fans had to wait for the last game three of the Divisional Series round to finally see a matchup of two teams with a win apiece. With both American League Division Series' ending in sweeps and the Nationals staving off elimination earlier in the day, the Cardinals came home looking to take a 2-1 series lead.
And St. Louis took care of business behind John Lackey with a 3-1 win.
A pair of strong number three starters squared off at the New Busch Stadium and both delivered quality performances.
The big question entering the night was whether Hyun-Jin Ryu would be able to take over three weeks off after shoulder inflammation back in September and come out with playoff caliber effectiveness from the start.
And from the first inning, Ryu answered any doubters' questions with his normal low-mid '90s fastball, sharp breaking balls and his great changeup. Ryu made one mistake in his six innings of work when he served up a middle-middle fastball to Matt Carpenter who made him pay for his third home run of the series.
Carpenter's solo home run in the third gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead, but also continued what has been an absolutely amazing NLDS. It was Carpenter's third straight game with a home run - tying Albert Pujols for a St. Louis playoff record. It was also his third homer against a left-handed pitcher, which exceeds the two he hit against southpaws in the regular year.
John Lackey could only hold the ever-so slight lead for so long, though. Lackey did shut the Dodgers out for five innings before Yasiel Puig snapped a streak of seven straight strikeouts with a leadoff triple. He came around when Hanley Ramirez lined a clutch two-out double to right, but that was it for Los Angeles.
Scott Elbert came on for the seventh with just 4.1 innings under his belt this season during the 162-game schedule. And Elbert pitched like someone not accustomed to playoff baseball. He promptly gave up a hit to Yadier Molina before Kolten Wong crushed a ball over the fence in right to make it 3-1. Carpenter also knocked another double off of Elbert before Brandon League finally ended the frame. But those two runs were all the St. Louis bullpen needed.
Pat Neshek breezed through a nine-pitch eighth and bridged the lead to Trevor Rosenthal, looking for his second save of the series in the ninth. Rosenthal got the first out, but then the Dodgers precipitously put two on with only one out.
But with Rosenthal struggling with his command, the grounds crew came out to work on the mound and the adjustment did nothing to hurt. Maybe it even helped Trevor Rosenthal retire the next two Dodgers in order. A couple of lazy fly balls to right sealed the deal to give the Cardinals the 2-1 series advantage with game four on the horizon tomorrow.
One win away from their fourth-straight NLCS appearance, the Cardinals send young Shelby Miller to the mound to try and beat Clayton Kershaw on short rest. The Dodger ace will throw four days after being hit hard in a game one loss at Chavez Ravine.
First pitch Tuesday will be just after 5 PM on the east.