Dodgers

Matt Kemp makes Dodgers’ pain go away with game-winning homer, 3-2

Matt Kemp
Dodgers right fielder Matt Kemp reacts after hitting a home run in the eighth inning that provided the winning margin in a 3-2 victory over the Cardinals.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Maybe there are only so many heartbreaks a team is allowed, so many times they can appear to have a game safely in hand just to be kicked in the gut so hard all they can do is fall to the ground in disbelief.

The Dodgers saw their two-run lead evaporate almost as quickly as Zack Greinke left the game Saturday night, this time again via the bat of Matt Carpenter, who drilled a two-run homer off J.P. Howell in the eighth inning.

Only this time the Dodgers had their own answer, with Matt Kemp leading off the bottom of the inning with a solo home run into the left-field seats to leave the Dodgers with a desperate 3-2 victory over the Cardinals before a sellout Dodger Stadium crowd of 54,599.

The victory ties the best-of-five division series at one game apiece. Game 3 is scheduled for Monday in St. Louis.

Kemp was the National League’s September player of the month, and he continued his hot hitting against the Cardinals’ superb set-up man Pat Neshak.

Neshak appeared in 71 games for the Cardinals in the regular season, posting a 0.77 WHIP and 1.87 ERA. In 67 1/3 innings, he had given up only four home runs.

But as everyone has already re-learned, the postseason is an entirely different animal.

The Dodgers had been so downhearted only moments earlier.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter which way you turn, you’re running face-first into the wall. It’s an unexplainable gravitational force. Nose flattened, eyes filled with tears, an absolutely stunned look is all you have to offer.

The Dodgers were cruising along behind Greinke on Saturday night -- or at least that deceptive feeling they’re apparently allowed -- when that great adventure known to them as the eighth inning arrived.

Howell took over for Greinke and almost immediately gave up a two-run homer to Dodger killer Matt Carpenter, who had a crushing three-run double in Game 1 during Friday night’s eight-run rally that led to a 10-9 victory for St. Louis. All the air briefly went out of the stadium after Carpenter’s latest blow.

But Kemp untied it with his leadoff homer in the bottom of the inning, and Kenley Jansen came on to retired the Cardinals in order in the ninth to earn the save.

The Dodgers opened the scoring with a pair of runs off Lance Lynn in the third inning, thanks partially to their new best buddy -- the review play.

A.J. Ellis, who had four hits in Friday’s series opener, started the third with a double off the wall in right. Randal Grichuk took a circuitous route, only to have the ball just go beyond the reach of his glove.

Greinke showed bunt, but then pulled up and slapped a single into right that moved Ellis to third. Ellis scored when Dee Gordon bounced out to second.

It was originally ruled a double play, with second baseman Kolten Wong tagging Greinke with his glove before throwing to first to nip Gordon. Trouble was, the ball wasn’t in Wong’s glove but in his right hand, which the replays showed, and Greinke was sent from the dugout back to second base.

That proved significant when Adrian Gonzalez lined a two-out single to center to score him with the second run.

Meanwhile, Greinke was just rolling along, though you could understand if Dodgers fans felt they’d seen that movie before.

The Cardinals could do nothing with Greinke through the first four innings. They were still looking for their first hit. Their only baserunners came on a hit batter and a walk.

Wong finally collected the Cardinals’ first hit with a one-out double down the right-field line. Then Greinke struck out Randal Grichuk and Lynn.

The Cardinals threatened again when Carpenter led off the sixth with a double and Greinke walked Matt Adams with two outs, but he then struck out Jhonny Peralta.

Greinke went seven innings, holding the Cardinals scoreless on two hits and two walks. He struck out seven.

After Howell gave up his third hit in the eighth, Brandon League retired the Cardinals in the inning and was credited with the victory.