The Los Angeles Dodgers staved off elimination on Wednesday in Game 5 of the 2013 National League Championship Series, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals by a score of 6-4 at Dodger Stadium.
That cuts L.A.'s series deficit to 3-2 as the teams get set for the action to shift back to Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals will have two chances to advance to the World Series at home.
Dodgers: 1st win of Game 5 of a postseason series since 1988 when they beat the Athletics to clinch the World Series— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 16, 2013
Starting pitcher Zack Greinke was introduced before the game by comedian Will Ferrell as the day's winning pitcher, and the former Cy Young Award winner didn't disappoint.
Greinke pitched seven stellar innings, yielding six hits and two runs with one walk while striking out four.
The result was far from certain in the early going, though. Greinke was forced to get out of a no-out bases-loaded jam in the top of the first. The right-hander pulled it off by striking out Matt Adams then inducing Yadier Molina to ground into an inning-ending double play.
After tagging St. Louis hurler Joe Kelly for two runs in the bottom of the second, all the momentum seemed to be in L.A.'s favor. Greinke even helped his own cause with an RBI single to score prodigious outfielder Yasiel Puig.
Zack Greinke is the first Dodgers pitcher with an RBI in an NLCS game since Orel Hershiser in Game 7 of the 1988 NLCS.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 16, 2013
But the Cardinals responded in the top of the third.
Leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter started the Cardinals' rally with a one-out single.
Right fielder Carlos Beltran knocked in Carpenter with an RBI triple. Matt Holliday then tied the game with a double of his own.
Help was on the way for the Dodgers in the bottom half of the inning, though.
Los Angeles cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez obliterated a two-out, 2-1 offering from Kelly deep into the right-field seats of Dodger Stadium to put the home team back on top.
Adrian Gonzalez sent this baseball on a minnie vacation to visit Pluto. Watch: http://t.co/XpgteWm0mw— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 16, 2013
After a scoreless fourth, Carl Crawford added insurance with a dinger of his own off of Kelly in the fifth. The solo shot barrage continued when catcher A.J. Ellis crushed one to left off of Cardinals reliever Edward Mujica in the seventh, pushing the lead to three.
Manager Don Mattingly gave the ball to Brian Wilson, who pitched a perfect eighth for his sixth scoreless inning of the postseason.
For good measure, Gonzalez added his second home run of the day in the eighth. It didn't travel quite as far as his initial 450-foot blast, but he feasted on John Axford's curveball to give LA its fourth home run of the game.
Dodgers tie their single-game postseason record with 4 HR in game (also had 4 in game in 1977 WS and 1978 NLCS)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 16, 2013
Coming into this contest, the Dodgers hadn't hit a homer in the NLCS.
A tense final inning was catalyzed by Holliday, who dropped a double in front of a sun-blinded Puig in right and scored off an Adams single. When Jon Jay singled, the tying run was now at the plate.
Closer Kenley Jansen then struck out David Freese but gave up a hit to Pete Kozma, plating Jay and making it 6-4.
However, Cardinals pinch-hitter Adron Chambers struck out looking on four pitches to end it, allowing Dodgers fans to breathe a sigh of relief.
Below is a look at some player grades in the aftermath of a magnificent display of resilience in Los Angeles from a team trying to mount an improbable series comeback.
Zack Greinke, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: A
With everything on the line, the 29-year-old came through with an excellent all-around performance.
Allowance will be made for Greinke getting roughed up a bit by the likes of Beltran and Holliday, because he made up for one of the runs he allowed by singling one in.
Greinke's ability to deliver sets up a shot for staff ace Clayton Kershaw to force a Game 7 on Friday.
Joe Kelly, SP, St. Louis Cardinals: B-
It wasn't too awful of a performance from Kelly, whose command was rather sharp in that he didn't walk any batters. However, he went after Gonzalez and paid a dear price after his offense gave him two runs of support.
As ESPN's Jayson Stark pointed out, Kelly should have considered pitching a bit more around Gonzalez:
For those who love those small-sample pitcher/hitter numbers, Adrian Gonzalez vs. Joe Kelly - 7 for 11, 2 HRs. So there ya go.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 16, 2013
Another mistake cost another run with one swing of Crawford's bat, and it looks especially bad since the Cardinals were able to mount a rally in the top of the ninth.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers: A
Maybe it's a bit hyperbolic to give two Dodgers the maximum grade, but in this case it's deserved considering the circumstances in staring the end of the season in the face.
Gonzalez's two home runs could catalyze the L.A. lineup moving forward. He also played stellar defense, capping off two double plays at first base and making one notable scoop out of the dirt from a stray Hanley Ramirez throw.
Without the momentum that Gonzalez's third-inning long ball generated, it's possible the Dodgers aren't gearing up for a return trip to St. Louis.
Matt Holliday, LF, St. Louis Cardinals: A-
After going hitless in the first three games of the series, Holliday is taking better advantage of his opportunities at the plate.
He could have scored Carpenter in the first inning had the second baseman been sent home. Molina grounded into a double play after Adams struck out swinging, though.
Holliday then started the rally in the final inning, which further fortifies his status as one of the better Cardinals performers.