LOS ANGELES – 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,” said Gonzalez, who went 3-for-4 with two solo homers and three runs scored.
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 as 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 wriggling out of big trouble in the first when Yadier Molina bounced into a double play, Greinke allowed two runs and six hits. He struck out four and walked one, and induced another inning-ending double play from Molina after the Cardinals scored twice in the third inning on Carlos Beltran’s RBI triple and Matt Holliday’s run-scoring double.
“He made his pitches, we made the plays, got out of it,” Gonzalez said. “We were able to get run support for him. All he needed was a few runs.”
“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.”
Jansen gave up RBI singles to Matt Adams and Pete Kozma in the ninth before getting out of the jam.
Cardinals starter Joe Kelly gave up four runs and seven hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked none.
“I made a few bad pitches on heaters and didn’t locate that well, and they turned into home runs,” he said. “With guys on base, I was going after them and attacking them with the fastball, but they’re good hitters and they put good swings on them and hit them out of the park.”