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13 October 2014

Cardinals even NLCS on Wong's walk-off blast Homer one of four hit by Cards, who rallied after losing Yadi to injury By Jenifer Langosch

ST. LOUIS -- The labor-intensive ways that limited the Cardinals' offense during the regular season have given way to an October long-ball attack, which, after carrying the Cards past the Dodgers, sent them soaring to San Francisco with a home split secured with a come-from-behind, 5-4 win over the Giants in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday.
On a night when the Cardinals watched their early advantage at Busch Stadium evaporate, their leader (Yadier Molina) hobble off the field with an oblique injury, and the Giants, down to their final strike, tie the game on aTrevor Rosenthal wild pitch, the club answered with another footnote for the history books. With the fourth walk-off home run in Cardinals postseason history, Kolten Wong nailed shut the Cardinals' 35th one-run win of the year with just their second four-homer game of the season.
"To do this at this stage, it's unbelievable," Wong said, after having his jersey shredded by mobbing teammates. "I've never dreamed of this. To be here and do something like that is incredible."
No NL team hit fewer home runs during the regular season. Now, no club this postseason has hit more.
This was about as close to a must-win game as it could have been for the Cardinals, too, as they could hardly afford to drop two games at home before heading to AT&T Park for the next three. It has been 29 years since a club (coincidentally, the Cardinals) climbed out of an 0-2 NLCS hole. But another dose of late-inning offense kept that from being the chore again.
"That was a really emotional game for a lot of reasons," Matt Carpenter said. "The ups and downs consisted of losing leads, getting leads and losing key players. I mean, there was a lot of things that happened that could have made this group quit or feel deflated, but we did a really good job of continually playing and trying to have good at-bats and finding a way to win. This was a big win for us."
HOW THE CARDINALS WON
Four of the Cardinals' five runs -- and now 17 of their 23 runs this postseason -- in Game 2 came via the home run ball, including the game-tying shot by pinch-hitter Oscar Taveras in the seventh, what was poised to be the game-winning clout by Matt Adams an inning later and then a walk-off blast by Wong to lead off the ninth. And long before the Cardinals became the first team in postseason history to homer in the seventh, eighth and ninth, Carpenter connected for his fourth homer of the postseason.
Carpenter's blast was part of some early scoring that built Lance Lynn a two-run lead. But he couldn't hold it, and shortly after Lynn exited a tie game, the Cardinals endured another blow -- Molina, unable to run to first after hitting a ground ball in the sixth, had to be escorted off the field. He was diagnosed with a left oblique strain and replaced behind the plate by Tony Cruz.
"A little quieter than I was hopeful for," manager Mike Matheny said of the mood in the minutes after Molina's exit. "These guys, they care about each other, and that's part of why we see the resiliency that we see."
They needed a final bit of resiliency in the ninth, which featured the usual drama from Rosenthal. With two on, two out and a full count to Joe Panik, Rosenthal bounced a fastball that deflected far enough away from Cruz to allow pinch-runner Matt Duffy to score the tying run from second. Seth Manessextinguished a bases-loaded mess to set up Wong's second game-winning hit of the postseason.
"It's not all about me. It's about this team," Rosenthal said. "Walking off this mound, I felt like we had a good chance with Seth coming in and the lineup. Guys were going to battle, and we were going to win that game."
THE MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Early show of powerCarpenter added another notch to his terrific postseason, blasting his fourth home run of the month to give the Cardinals an early 1-0 lead. With it, Carpenter has hit half as many homers in six playoff games (24 at-bats) as he did in the 162-game regular season (595 at-bats).
Taveras and Adams followed that up with their own impact swings. Taveras, who has yet to start this postseason, became the first Cardinals pinch-hitter to deliver a game-tying blast in the postseason. Adams joined Brian Jordan (1996) as the only Cardinals to hit a pair of go-ahead homers in the seventh inning or later in a single postseason. It was Adams' late homer in Game 4 of the NL Division Series that sunk Clayton Kershaw.
"You know, throughout the season, people were worried about our power," Adams said. "But we knew inside the clubhouse that we didn't lose any power. We just have to go up there and have good at-bats, and we know the home runs will come."
Molina strains obliqueMolina, considered by many to be the Cardinals' most irreplaceable player, may just have to be replaced for the rest of this postseason series. Molina suffered a left oblique strain on a swing that produced a double play in the sixth inning. Molina never took a step toward first base, but instead remained hunched over at home plate until visited by a trainer.
While oblique injuries often tend to linger, the Cardinals are fortunate that they don't have to immediately replace Molina on the roster. Their earlier decision to carry two backup catchers -- Cruz and A.J. Pierzynski -- gives the Cardinals flexibility to hold off on removing Molina from the NLCS roster. Doing so would preclude the Cardinals from also playing Molina in the World Series, should they advance.
"We don't know much more about it right now," Matheny said of the severity. "He's out getting some looks right now from the doctors. But it didn't look real good."
Giants pull even with wild pitchUnable to get a final strike call on three borderline pitches to Panik, Rosenthal uncorked a 99-mph fastball that spiked in front of home plate and landed Rosenthal his first career postseason blown save. Duffy, running on the pitch, scored easily from second to tie the game as it took Cruz too long to track the ricochet. Rosenthal had faced 308 hitters during the regular season and thrown only one wild pitch.
"Trevor throws hard, we all know that," Cruz said. "The ball bounced pretty far out there. I was trying to do whatever I could to keep it in front. I know I got a glove on it, and I was just trying to find it after that."
Rosenthal worked himself into that ninth-inning mess by allowing consecutive one-out singles. After the walk to Panik, Rosenthal also walked Buster Posey. His night ended there.
Maness puts out fireThe pitcher nicknamed "groundball guy" induced one of the biggest of his career on Sunday to help the Cardinals escape the ninth with the game tied. Summoned into Rosenthal's bases-loaded mess with two out, Maness fell behind four-hole hitter Pablo Sandovalbefore inducing a comeback on the fifth pitch of the at-bat.
"I got behind 2-0 and was going to make him hit my best pitch, the sinker," Maness said. "He fouled a couple off. Luckily, I made a decent pitch and I was able to get it right back to me."
It was just another day's work for Maness, who led the NL with 65 inherited runners during the regular season.
Hawaiian hero, part IISix days after declaring his NLDS home run the biggest of his career, Wong trumped it. Hoping to jump-start a ninth-inning rally by getting on base, Wong did even better. Lining a pitch from Sergio Romo just over the wall in right, Wong delivered the seventh walk-off hit in Cardinals postseason history.
"You can't take anything away from them," Romo said. "Is it a shock? We tend to not give up home runs, I guess. It is what it is. But for them to come out swinging the way they did, it's only up for them. I can only speak for myself. I've got to execute."
Wong is the fourth second baseman in Major League history with a postseason walk-off homer, joining Jeff Kent (2004), Alfonso Soriano (2001) and Bill Mazeroski (1960).
THE UNSUNG HERO
Randal GrichukQuestioned pregame about his decision to stick with Grichuk as his right fielder instead of favoring the left-on-right matchup that Taveras would have provided, Matheny said defensive consideration leaned toward sticking with Grichuk. Turns out, the move would provide immediate payoff.
With a runner on first and one out, Grichuk tracked down Posey's drive to right-center to rob the catcher of an extra-base hit and keep the Giants from taking an early lead. Grichuk later contributed offensively, too, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead with his RBI single in the fourth. Grichuk was 2-for-20 coming into that at-bat, which was preceded by the Giants intentionally walking Wong to load the bases.
"I saw them put up the four and knew they were going to intentionally walk him," Grichuk said. "I went up there and told myself, 'That's a mistake on their part. Hopefully I'll come up with a hit.' And I did."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• The Cardinals' three previous postseason walk-off homers were hit by Ozzie Smith (Game 4, 1985 NLCS), Jim Edmonds (Game 6, 2004 NLCS) and David Freese (Game 6, 2011 World Series).
• Before Sunday, the Cardinals had four four-homer games in franchise postseason history. The others included Game 2 of the 2012 NLDS (vs. Washington), Game 3 of the 2011 World Series (vs. Texas), Game 2 of the 2004 NLCS (vs. Houston), and Game 1 of the 2004 NLDS (vs. Los Angeles).
• This marked the first time in franchise history that the Cardinals had won Game 2 of an NLCS in which they lost Game 1 at home.
• From the seventh inning on this postseason, the Cardinals are hitting .394 with seven home runs.
• The Cardinals, with 11 home runs in six postseason games, have already equaled their total from the month of May (27 games).
ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS
With his one-out single in the second, Molina became the all-time postseason hits leader for the Cardinals, with 89. He had moved into a tie with Albert Pujols atop that franchise leaderboard in Game 1. Sitting third on the list is Edmonds, with 61 hits.
Molina, 32, is participating in his eighth postseason, all of which have come with St. Louis. Before him, no Cardinals catcher had ever appeared in the playoffs in more than three seasons. He is 5-for-21 through six games in this postseason, though his status is questionable for the rest of the series.
NEXT GAME 
After a day off for both teams, the NLCS will pick back up with Game 3 from AT&T Park in San Francisco on Tuesday (3 p.m. CT on FOX Sports 1). John Lackey will get the ball for the Cardinals against Giants starter Tim Hudson.

Cardinals' bats can't pick up Waino in NLCS defeat Ace righty logs just 4 2/3 innings as offense shut down by MadBum By Jenifer Langosch

ST. LOUIS -- After all of the insistence on the eve of Game 1 in the National League Championship Series that concerns about his elbow had been widely overblown, Adam Wainwright offered insufficient on-field proof to confirm that all is indeed well.

Now winless in his last five postseason starts, Wainwright, for the second time this month, was chased before getting through five innings. His offense couldn't bail him out this time, either, leaving him to answer more questions about his health and the Cardinals staring at an early best-of-seven series hole with the Giants' 3-0 win on Saturday night at Busch Stadium.

San Francisco pounced on a laboring ace early and capitalized on a handful of defensive miscues to build the three-run lead before Wainwright could pocket his ninth out. An error by Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong's inability to turn a double play led directly to two of those runs. Wainwright's night would end with two on and two out in the fifth, leaving him having thrown 200 pitches while allowing eight earned runs and 17 hits in nine innings this postseason.



"There was some bloops that dropped in, but you know what? When you make pitches in the middle of the plate, even though they're bloops, they find holes," Wainwright said. "Seemingly, there was some bad luck out there, but I know I can be a lot sharper."

The Cardinals, playing in the NLCS for the fourth straight season, had no answer offensively against Giants starter Madison Bumgarner, who dominated over 7 2/3 four-hit innings. History suggests, though, that the series is far from over. Of the previous six instances in which the Cardinals dropped the first game of the NLCS, they stormed back to take the series three times.

WHAT WENT WRONG

With Wainwright again searching for command of his fastball, the Giants staked their own ace to an early cushion, scoring twice in the second and once more in the third. It all may have played out differently had outfielder Randal Grichuk held onto the ball as he barreled into the right-field wall. Instead the ball squirted out, and Pablo Sandoval had a two-base hit to lead off the second.

Bloop hits and a walk compounded the inning, as did Carpenter's two-out error to allow the second run to score. An inning later, Brandon Belt delivered an insurance sacrifice fly after Wong was unable to get two outs on what should have been a tailor-made double play.

"We would have liked to have played a little better defense, and Adam would have liked to pitch better," Carpenter said, "but the difference was Madison and the way he threw, and we weren't able to score any runs off him."

Indeed, the Cardinals' offense never mustered enough traction to seriously scare the Giants after that point. The offense tallied four total hits, with only two of them coming in the same inning. That was the seventh, the inning in which the Cardinals enjoyed repeated success in the NL Division Series. This time, pinch-hitter Tony Cruz struck out to strand two in scoring position.

"We don't necessarily put a star by the seventh inning or anything else," manager Mike Matheny said. "We just know that we stay the course and we needed somebody to come up big there and get a big hit for us. And Madison Bumgarner was good today. He kept us from having that big inning."


THE MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

First-inning fizzle: The Cardinals never got going offensively, but the night may have unfolded differently had Matt Holliday's deep drive to right-center dropped in the opening inning. With Carpenter on first, Holliday drove a first-pitch fastball to the warning track. But what looked like it could be a run-scoring hit off the bat was tracked down by center fielder Gregor Blanco.

Holliday ended up going hitless on the night, part of the 1-for-19 performance by the team's Nos. 1-5 hitters.

Fumbling in the field: A team that ranked second in the Majors with 64 defensive runs saved during the regular season gave three away on Saturday. Grichuk couldn't hang on after making a terrific catch attempt in right; Carpenter couldn't cleanly field a ground ball; and Wong couldn't turn a double play. The three plays directly led to all of the Giants' runs.

Those miscues also made an already-challenging night for Wainwright even more laborious. He needed 36 pitches to get through the second inning and threw another 18 in the third.

"It comes down to us doing the things we do on a consistent basis, and our pitchers need help at times," Matheny said. "If we make plays we typically make, you're looking at a 0-0 game."


Contact play: Looking to sustain their first bit of offensive momentum, the Cardinals called upon instant replay hoping that it would award Wong first base in the seventh. Wong, who hit a slow roller to the first baseman, and Bumgarner, who took the throw, collided along the first-base line as Bumgarner ran in to make the tag. Matheny asked for a review of the play, thinking contact may have been made before Bumgarner had the ball.

It took only 52 seconds to determine that the correct call had been made on the field. Wong remained in the dugout and the rally fizzled.

"The video shows I couldn't get to first base because he cut me off," Wong said. "I saw him coming, and then I felt his shoulder go into my shoulder. I was standing there wondering if it was legal or not. But they [umpires] probably made the right call."


No balk call: While the Cardinals went hitless in their two seventh-inning chances with a runner in scoring position, they did believe they had a run taken away from them by a balk call not made. Before a pitch to Cruz, Bumgarner interrupted his motion in what potentially could have been a balk. It wasn't called, and Cruz proceeded to strike out.

"I thought he did," Cruz said. "I asked [home-plate umpire] Phil [Cuzzi] right away, and he said he thought he stepped off."


THE UNSUNG HERO

Pablo Sandoval: The Panda reached base four times in five plate appearances and was in the middle of both run-scoring innings for the Giants. His leadoff double in the second gave the Giants their first baserunner against Wainwright; Sandoval would score the first run. His single in the next inning advanced Buster Posey, who eventually came home on a sacrifice fly.

Sandoval, who has more multi-hit games (10) in the playoffs than anyone in Giants history, is a familiar postseason nemesis to the Cardinals. He went 9-for-29 with two homers, four runs and six RBIs against St. Louis in the 2012 NLCS.


KEY MANAGERIAL DECISION

Tapping Cruz to pinch-hit:  In the team's only pinch-hit spot of the night, Matheny chose to send up Cruz with two out and two in scoring position against Bumgarner in the seventh. The only one of the team's six bench players with any notable success against Bumgarner was Daniel Descalso, though Matheny noted afterward that the Giants' ace "is a tough assignment for a lefty."

With that taking Descalso, A.J. Pierzynski and Oscar Taveras out of the mix, Matheny selected Cruz over Peter Bourjos (0-for-2 against Bumgarner) and Pete Kozma (1-for-4). Cruz, taking his first in-game at-bat since Sept. 28, struck out on the sixth pitch of the at-bat.

"We need one of our guys to come up big," Matheny said. "Tony had a nice swing on a foul ball. His timing was right on, but ended up chasing a high one late."


SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS

• The Cardinals had won each of their three previous NLCS Game 1s at Busch Stadium (2013, '05 and '04) before Saturday. The last such loss was in '02, also coming to the Giants. San Francisco ended up advancing to the World Series that year.

• Saturday's was the Giants' 10th postseason shutout since 2010, the highest total in the Majors during that span. The Cardinals and Tigers rank second with four. The Cardinals were last shut out in the postseason by the Dodgers in Game 3 of the 2013 NLCS.

• Yadier Molina collected his 88th career postseason hit, tying him with Albert Pujols for the most in Cardinals history. His .289 postseason batting average is the sixth-highest mark by a catcher in Major League history.


ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS

No seventh heaven: After scoring 13 of their 18 NLDS runs in the seventh inning, the Cardinals could muster no such magic on Saturday. The best they managed was twice bringing the potential tying run to the plate. Keeping the Cardinals from another seventh-inning stirring was Bumgarner, who extended his postseason scoreless-innings streak on the road to a Major League-record 26 2/3 innings

NEXT GAME

The first pitch of NLCS Game 2 is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. CT on Sunday at Busch Stadium on FOX Sports 1. Lance Lynn will be making his franchise-most 23rd postseason appearance when he starts opposite San Francisco's Jake Peavy.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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08 October 2014

Cardinals stun Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers - again - with a 3-2 victory at Busch to take NLDS!

Cards celebrate another postseason series win!
The Dodgers, baseball’s richest team, did not win. Clayton Kershaw, baseball’s best pitcher, did not win. Instead they were stuffed as so many before them - and their $ season came to an end Tuesday in St. Louis before the MIGHTY ST. LOUIS CARDINALS!  The Cardinals won the division series three games to one and will advance to the National League Championship Series. The Dodgers lost and will head into an off-season haunted by what they did not do.

Pitching on three days rest, Kershaw was absolutely good through six innings, holding the Cardinals scoreless.  After melting down in the series opener, Kershaw looked determined and the Cardinals almost looked stymied. Kershaw had thrown 94 pitches after six innings and led 2-0. Pitching on short rest, logically he comes out there.

But the deep black hole to this Dodgers team all season was middle relief. So out went Kershaw to start the seventh, and down went the season. Kershaw, again, done in by the seventh inning.  That brought up the left-handed hitting Matt Adams who got all of a Kershaw curveball, sending his 102nd pitch over the right-field wall and into the Cardinals’ bullpen for the 3-2 lead.  Kershaw put hands on knees and bent over, seemingly try to shake the disbelief. Eight pitches had changed everything.

Kershaw now will have to head into the winter knowing that for the second consecutive time the Dodgers’ season ended with him on the mound.  The Cardinals could do nothing with him for six innings, but the Dodgers were also being held down by the Cardinals’ Shelby Miller. The St. Louis right-hander matched Kershaw and held the Dodgers scoreless through five innings.

The Dodgers finally scratched a pair of runs against him in the sixth.  Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez singled to put runners on the corners. Crawford scored the game’s first run when Matt Kemp bounced into a double play. After Ramirez was hit by a pitch, Andre Ethier walked.  The Cards went to reliever Seth Maness, but Juan Uribe greeted him with a run-scoring single that sent Ethier to third.

Ethier, however, was picked off third by catcher Yadier Molina.  A Maness pitch initially got away from Molina, and after taking a couple steps toward home, Ethier saw Molina had recovered and went back to third. Ethier was originally ruled safe, but the Cardinals challenged the call and it was overturned.

The Cardinals hit five home runs in the four games, all off left-handed pitchers. They will meet the winner of the Giants-Nationals division series in the NLCS.  So, the Cards are back! Even an arm like Kershaw couldn't keep the mighty Cards from progressing to face either the Giants or the Nats. St. Louis pulled off a 3-2 win against Los Angeles Tuesday to claim their division, a victory cemented when Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams launched a seventh-inning three-run shot against star pitcher for the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw.

With the Busch Stadium victory, the Cardinals nailed the best-of-five playoff by Game 4, the New York Timesreports. The team will head into the National League Championship Series for the fourth time in a row, to face either the San Francisco Giants or the Washington Nationals on Saturday, depending on which team wins Tuesday’s showdown at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

07 October 2014

Kolten KO: Cardinals power up for 2-1 NLDS lead


ST. LOUIS -- It had been 22 years since a Cardinals team had been as devoid of power as this 2014 unit, a group that hit a National League-low 105 home runs during the regular season. The power surge arrived along with October.

Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong blasted the Cardinals to a 3-1 win and a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series against the Dodgers on Monday. By winning the swing game of the NL Division Series, the Cardinals erased the necessity of having to beat both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinketo advance to a fourth straight NL Championship Series. Now, taking down just one of the two will do.

"Every game is an important game, but tonight was certainly a huge, huge game," Carpenter said, after becoming the first player in Major League history to double and homer in three straight postseason games. "This was certainly kind of a must-win, knowing that we do have Kershaw and Greinke left."

Wong electrified the largest crowd in Busch Stadium III history (47,574) with his tiebreaking homer in the seventh. It was even more than the Cardinals had hoped for, as they were playing for one run by bunting Yadier Molina over to third after his leadoff double.

Manager Mike Matheny stuck with his left-handed-hitting second baseman against lefty reliever Scott Elbert hours after explaining his decision to start Wong against left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu by noting that he was "giving him a shot to get in there and do something special today."

While the Cardinals would have settled for the tiebreaking run, Wong did one better, lining his first career playoff home run in his second career postseason start. It came, too, in his first home playoff game since being picked off to end Game 4 of the 2013 World Series. The emotion of the two moments couldn't have been more in contrast -- spiking his helmet then, rounding first base pumping his fist high in the air now.

"You saw it on my face," Wong said. "I definitely lost it -- you kind of lose it out there, the emotion came out. You're constantly working, trying to figure out how to make this game a little easier, how to finally succeed. And when you do, it's definitely one of those things you're really proud of."

Wong, like Molina and Jon Jay before him, connected on a first-pitch offspeed offering from Elbert.

"It looked like, from where we were at, that he was super calm up at the plate and was just ready to drive the ball," noted Matt Adams. "It was a huge hit."

The sellout crowd drew Wong out of the dugout for a curtain call, as they had for Carpenter after his solo homer off Ryu back in the third. Carpenter continued his torrid postseason start, giving the Cardinals their first series lead before the seventh inning as he became the first player in franchise history to homer in three straight games in the same postseason series. Albert Pujols was the only other to homer in three consecutive October games, spanning two series.

Carpenter, who had eight home runs over 595 at-bats this season and had never in his career gone deep in back-to-back games, has hit all three of his blasts off a different left-handed pitcher. He homered just twice off lefties in the previous six months.

Carpenter capped his night with a double, bumping his series extra-base hit total to six.

"The last couple of days it's felt pretty good," Carpenter said. "I would take it now [rather] than in the regular season anytime. This is when it matters. This is when it's fun."

With two home runs on Monday and six in the series, the Cardinals have tallied 10 of their 15 NLDS runs off the long ball. No other postseason participant has gone deep more to this point.

"We've got guys [who] can do it, but we're not preaching it," said Matheny, whose team never tallied a half-dozen homers in a three-game span during the season. "It isn't like we started October and all of a sudden say, 'We're going to hit homers.' They're just taking good at-bats, and when they do, the ball is going to jump out from time to time. Good time for it today."

Ryu, making his first appearance since Sept. 12, made no other costly pitches while carrying the Dodgers through six innings. But Cardinals starter John Lackey was just as dominant, setting up the offense's late-inning assist.

Making his 17th postseason start and taking over the lead for most postseason innings by an active pitcher, Lackey limited the Dodgers to one sixth-inning run in his seven-inning outing. He set the tone for a strong showing early by freezing Dee Gordon at third base in the first.

Adrian Gonzalez's fly ball to left wasn't deep enough for Gordon to challenge outfielder Matt Holliday.Matt Kemp flied out to end the threat.

"From the first pitch, he was outstanding," Molina said. "He was hitting his location. He was unbelievable tonight."

Lackey worked through the next four innings relatively easily, allowing two hits and retiring eight straight at one point. He nearly finagled his way around a Yasiel Puig leadoff triple in the sixth, too, though after Gonzalez and Kemp again turned in fruitless at-bats, Lackey served up a game-tying double to Hanley Ramirez.

Lackey stranded Ramirez with a strikeout, one of the eight he had on the night to equal his postseason high.

"I think there's definitely different energy, different adrenaline level," Lackey said of pitching on the October stage. "And that can take you to special places when you use it the right way."

The Dodgers also felt Lackey benefited from home-plate umpire Dale Scott's liberal strike zone.

"I thought Dale was very generous," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "And it puts you in a bind. You keep giving pitches, changing counts. Obviously, you can't go too far with it. But real generous."

A winner in each of his last three DS games, Lackey watched Pat Neshek and Trevor Rosenthal preserve the lead to notch the Cardinals' 52nd home victory of the season. Rosenthal, after putting the potential tying runs aboard, got an assist from grounds-crew members, who manicured the mound after he complained of having issues with his footing. He followed the brief delay by inducing two flyouts.

The chance for home win No. 53 -- with a champagne shower to accompany it -- will come behind Shelby Miller and against Kershaw on Tuesday (4 p.m. CT on FOX Sports 1).

"If you want to win the World Series, you're going to have to face good pitchers," Molina said. "That's going to happen tomorrow. We have a good team, and we've been here. We never give up."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tribute to Stan by Bob Costas