NLCS Game 4: Cardinals on verge of World Series return

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LOS ANGELES — The Cardinals have been this close to the World Series before, and they don’t want to blow it this time.

St. Louis got home runs from Matt Holliday and pinch-hitter Shane Robinson — the first of the NL championship series — and beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 Tuesday night for a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven playoff.

The Cardinals have lost the NLCS both times they owned such a commanding lead, most recently last season when they dropped three in a row to San Francisco, the eventual World Series winner.

“That’s something that we thought last year — up 3-1 and all we have to do is win one more and we’re there,” closer Trevor Rosenthal said. “But that didn’t work out, so we’ve just got to keep the same approach.”

With a quick turnaround for Game 5 Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles, the Dodgers will try to forget the loss, and hope the Cardinals remember their recent past failures.

“We get into a Game 7, those things (losing a 3-1 lead) will creep into their heads over there,” Dodgers infielder Adrian Gonzalez said. “Our goal is definitely to push this to a Game 7.”

Joe Kelly will start Game 5 for the Cardinals, looking to clinch their 19th pennant.

The Dodgers will turn to Zack Greinke, and if he can help deliver a win, they’ll call on ace Clayton Kershaw for a potential Game 6 back in St. Louis.

“I’ve got one of the best pitchers in baseball pitching tomorrow,” manager Don Mattingly said. “If we come out here and play well tomorrow and get a win, I’ve probably got the best pitcher in baseball pitching the next day.”

The Dodgers hope star shortstop Hanley Ramirez can again start despite a broken left rib. He left in the middle of the sixth after striking out three times.

“It felt worse than yesterday,” Ramirez said. “It makes me angry.”

Cardinals infielder David Freese came out after six innings for defense. He left Monday’s game with a cramp in his right calf, but manager Mike Matheny said Freese was fine.

In a series starved for offense, the Cardinals scored as many runs as they did in the first three games combined, when the teams totaled nine.

Hitless in his previous 22 at-bats at Dodger Stadium, Holliday drove a two-run shot off Ricky Nolasco an estimated 426 feet to left field, capping a three-run third inning that gave the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.

“That’s about as good as I can hit one,” said Holliday, who was 0 for 13 in the series before connecting.

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