It was such a nice little dream for the Dodgers. The timely hitting, Clayton Kershaw dominating, the jumping out to a five-run lead.
And then came the other kind of dream, the nightmare variety. The kind that haunt and linger, and if a team’s not very careful, can prove crushing.
Despite their 16 hits and chasing St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright in the fifth inning, despite Kershaw retiring 16 consecutive Cardinals at one point, it all came undone for the Dodgers in a seventh inning they figure to remember for some time.
The Cardinals scored eight times in the seventh -- six charged against Kershaw -- to stun the Dodgers and its crowd of 54,265 at Dodger Stadium with a 10-9 victory in the opener of their National League division series.
Game 2 in the best-of-five series is scheduled at 6:37 p.m. Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers scored two runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings to take a 6-1 lead. Meanwhile, Kershaw was absolutely dealing. After giving up a solo home run to Randal Grichuk in the first, he was in complete control.
In his career, Kershaw was 67-0 when the Dodgers scored at least four runs for him.
But the postseason can prove another kind of animal, a shockingly unfamiliar one. And today, Kershaw is now 67-1 when the Dodgers score at least four runs for him.
Despite the 92-degree heat at the game’s start, Kershaw seemed to be rolling along, all while the Dodgers were ripping into Wainwright. After a benches-clearing dust-up in the third inning when Yasiel Puig was hit by a pitch, the Dodgers scored two times on a Hanley Ramirez single and Carl Crawford ground-rule double.
They added two more in the fourth inning on singles by Puig and Matt Kemp, and then two more in the fifth on an A.J. Ellis home run. Ellis had four hits on the night.
Kershaw had a 6-1 lead and it was a party at Dodger Stadium, just before it was brought to almost complete silence.
Kershaw gave up a second solo home run to Matt Carpenter to end his 16-consecutive-out streak in the sixth, but still looked strong going into the seventh with a four-run lead.
And then he was never the same. He was still throwing hard, but the ball seemed to have little life. The Cardinals strung together four consecutive singles to center field to start their rally.
After collecting his 10th and final strikeout on his 102nd pitch, Kershaw got ahead of Carpenter 0-2. But the third baseman turned it into a terrific eight-pitch at-bat, finally hammering a flat fastball to the wall in center to clear the bases and put the Cardinals ahead, 7-6.
The Cardinals had chased Kershaw with six hits in the inning. He was finally relieved by rookie Pedro Baez, who hardly proved up to the moment. He issued a walk and then a three-run homer to Matt Holliday, a blast that would prove decisive when Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run homer for the Dodgers in the eighth inning.
Kershaw was left with this very odd line: 6 2/3 innings, eight earned runs, eight hits, no walks and 10 strikeouts. Kershaw had given up eight earned runs the entire month of September.
The Dodgers added a final run in the ninth inning after Ellis singled and Andre Ethier doubled him to third. Ellis scored on groundout by Dee Gordon, but hard-throwing Trevor Rosenthal struck out Puig with Ethier at third for the final out.