Dodgers take the solo route to stay alive with 6-4 Game 5 victory

Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford is congratulated by first base coach Davey Lopes after hitting a home run in the fifth inning of Game 5.
Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford is congratulated by first base coach Davey Lopes after hitting a home run in the fifth inning of Game 5.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Seems the Dodgers want to keep playing.

Using the sudden power of the solo home run and a terrific turnaround pitching performance from Zack Greinke, the Dodgers lived to fight another day with their 6-4 victory Wednesday afternoon over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

The victory staved off elimination, but still leaving the Cardinals up three games to two in the best-of-seven series.

After taking a day off Thursday, the series is scheduled to resume Friday with Game 6 in St. Louis.

The score was tied 2-2 when the Dodgers suddenly discovered their new love affair with the solo home run.

Adrian Gonzalez started it with a shot in the third, Carl Crawford added another in the fifth, A.J. Ellis joined the party with one in the seventh, and Gonzalez apparently enjoying his first one so much, that he added another one in the eighth.


In the first four games of the series, the Dodgers had exactly zero home runs.

The four home runs in a single game ties the club postseason record, accomplished twice before.

Greinke struggle with his control early. He had to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam in the first and then gave up a pair of runs in the third, but then never allowed another baserunner in his seven innings.

Kenley Jansen made things interesting in the ninth, giving up a pair of runs four hits before catching pinch-hitter Adron Chambers looking at a third strike with runners on first and second.

Here is an inning-by-inning recap of the NLCS Game 5:

Dodgers 6, Cardinals 4 (end of ninth, final):

The Cardinals got their first hit since the third inning when Matt Holliday’s fly to right field was apparently lost in the sun by Yasiel Puig, who stabbed late and short for the ball. Then he trotted back after it as Holliday took second.

Matt Adams lined a single to center to score Holliday, but Kenley Jansen made it interesting after striking out Yadier Molina by giving up a single to Jon Jay. He struck out David Freese before Pete Kozma delivered a run-scoring single to right field. Jansen then struck out pinch-hitter Adron Chambers, who watched an outside pitch for strike three.

Dodgers 6, Cardinals 2 (end of eighth):

The Dodgers scored one more via -- do they know any other way? -- the solo home run.

Adrian Gonzalez enjoyed his first one so much, he added another. This one coming against John Axford with two outs in the eighth.

Three more outs and they head back to St. Louis.

Dodgers , Cardinals 0 (middle of eighth);

Brian Wilson followed his beard to the mound and then promptly retired the Cardinals in order. The last 16 Cardinals have now gone down.

Kenley Jansen is warming up for the ninth.

Dodgers 5, Cardinals 2 (end of seventh):

The Dodgers are now officially in love with the solo home run. Kiss, kiss, smooch, smooch.

Once locked in a 2-2 game, the Dodgers have taken a three-run lead via the solo shot.

A.J. Ellis joined the home run party with his solo shot out to left. Repeat: Until today, the Dodgers had no home runs in the first four games of the series. Must love day games.

Michael Young also pinch hit for Zack Greinke, to officially end his day. That was some turnaround performed by the right-hander. After struggling in the first three innings, he retired the last 13 consecutive Cardinals he faced.

In his seven innings, he allowed two runs on six hits and a walk, with four strikeouts.

Dodgers 4, Cardinals 2 (middle of seventh):

Hanley Ramirez did not come back out at short to start the inning and has been replaced by Nick Punto.

Ramirez was hitless in three at-bats, and with the Dodgers up by two it may have been deemed it was better to get him out now, without further aggravating his sore ribs. Also, at this point Punto is a superior defensively.

In what was probably his last inning, Zack Greinke again retired the Cardinals in order. Since the Cards scored their two runs in the third, he set down the last 13 consecutive hitters.

Manager Don Mattingly now has it set up to bring Brian Wilson in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth

Dodgers 4, Cardinals 2 (end of sixth):

St. Louis starter Joe Kelly did not come back out start the inning. Kelly allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk in his five innings, striking out four. Kelly lasted six inning in the series opener.

The Cardinals went to ex-Dodger Randy Choate for two outs and then to Edward Mujica for the third out, retiring the Dodgers in order.

Dodgers 4, Cardinals 2 (middle of sixth):

Zack Greinke is looking strong, his curveball again back in control.

He retired the Cardinals in order again and has now retired 10 straight. He finished the inning by striking out Yadier Molina on a 94 mph fastball.

Through the sixth, however, he has thrown 93 pitches.

Dodgers 4, Cardinals 2 (end of fifth);

The Dodgers are liking this solo home-run routine.

This time it was Carl Crawford hitting one deep into the right-field pavilion. For the third time in as many at-bats, Crawford worked a full count. But unlike his previous two, he made this one count.

The Dodgers announced the estimated homer’s distance at 447 feet.

The Dodgers had no home runs in the first four games, but have now have two in their last three innings.

With Hanley Ramirez at bat for the third time, the crowd started chanting, “Han-ley, Han-ley.” Ramirez and his broken rib, however, bounced back to the pitcher.

Dodgers 3, Cardinals 2 (middle of fifth):

Zack Greinke retired the side in order again and has suddenly retired seven consecutive.

Apparently the crowd is never going to completely fill in. They announce tickets sold, but there are scattered empty seats, particularly at the ends of the reserved level. The game was announced as a sellout.

Dodgers 3, Cardinals 2 (end of fourth):

Dodgers went quickly in the fourth, Joe Kelly setting them down in order.

Through the first four innings, Zack Greinke has thrown 70 pitchers and Kelly 65.

Dodgers 3, Cardinals 2 (middle of fourth):

An easy inning for Zack Greinke, who retired the Cardinals in order.

Not bad for Andre Ethier, either, who had struggled defensively in the third, who ran down to line drives.

Dodgers 3, Cardinals 2 (end of third):

Adrian Gonzalez gave the Dodgers back the lead with a two-out solo home run.

Gonzalez flipped his bat as the ball carried well into right-field pavilion. That might have been for the Cardinals, who had complained about the Dodgers’ theatrics after Monday, Adam Wainwright calling Gonzalez “Mickey Mouse” for something he thought he heard while Gonzalez was then standing on third.

It’s the first home run of the series for Gonzalez, and the Dodgers.

The Times’ Bill Shaikin said Gonzalez put his hands on top of his helmet to make a Disney mouse ears sign.

Dodgers 2, Cardinals 2 (middle of third):

It doesn’t look like much is going to come easily.

The Cardinals tied it up after first getting a one-out single from Matt Carpenter. Zack Greinke was trying to pitch very carefully to Carlos Beltran, but he drilled a full-count curveball into deep center. The ball hit just below the 395-foot marker and bounced back. Andre Ethier, playing with that bad ankle, slipped on the warning track trying to nab the ricochet.

Beltran ended up with a run-scoring triple. Matt Holliday lined a double Ethier could not trrack down to score Beltran and tie the game.

It could have been worse for the Dodgers. Matt Adams beat the Dodgers defensive shift with a little nubber that went for an infield single, Holliday taking third.

But Yadier Molina hit a comebacker to Greinke, who spun to start a double play, the second Molina has hit into in two at-bats.

Dodgers 2, Cardinals 0 (end of second):

The Dodgers strike first.

The Dodgers opened the botttom of the second with consecutive singles by Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig, who’s been a different hitter since returning to Los Angeles.

After Andre Ethier flied out, Juan Uribe singled to center, just enough in the gap to allow the less-than-fleet Gonzalez to score from second.

A.J. Ellis fouled out, with Puig tagging and taking third, and then Zack Greinke again showed why he is one of baseball’s best-hitting pitchers, knocking a single into left to score Puig.

Joe Kelly struck out Carl Crawford, but the Dodgers had a 2-0 lead.

Dodgers 0, Cardinals 0 (middle of second):

As difficult as the first inning was for Zack Greinke, the second was a breeze.

Greinke retired the side in order, needing only 10 pitches. His curve seemed back under his control.

Dodgers 0, Cardinals 0 (end of first):

Hanley Ramirez was not in the obvious pain from Tuesday night in his first at-bat, but he still looked a lot less than his normal self.

He struck out for the fourth consecutive time, this time on a called strike three he was not happy about. Ramirez let homeplate umpire Ted Barrett know what he thought of the call, and probably could have been run.

Then he slowly walked to shortstp, leaving a trail of batting gloves, shin protecters and his flung bat behind.

Joe Kelly retired the Dodgers in order.

Dodgers 0, Cardinals 0 (middle of first):

Zack Greinke pitched like he’s intent on making things interesting today.

The Cardinals opened the game by loading the bases with no outs on a pair of singles and a walk. And Greinke got out of it.

He struck out Matt Adams and then induced Yadier Molina into hitting a sharp bouncer to Juan Uribe. He stepped on third and threw slightly wide of first, but Adrian Gonzalez dug it out to complete the inning-ending double play.

Greinke needed 20 pitches to get out of the first.

It’s warm and clear, and with an unmistakable sense of foreboding as Dodger Stadium prepares for Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

The Dodgers trail the best-of-seven series three games to one and send Zack Greinke to the mound to try and stave off elimination. Historically, the Dodgers have never come back from a 3-1 deficit (0-6) in a seven-game series.

That makes for desperate times, which could explain why Manager Don Mattingly again is going to start the night with Hanley Ramirez in the lineup and batting third.

Ramirez was in obvious pain when he attempted to swing the bat in Tuesday’s loss and was removed after six innings. The Dodgers are clearly a better team when Ramirez is in the lineup, but a hobbled Ramirez is a detriment.

Mattingly, however, said he was not continuing to start Ramirez out of loyalty or as nod to what he’s meant to the team this season.

“I feel like he’s the best option,” Mattingly said. “If Hanley’s going to be ready to swing the bat -- we’ve seen it the first day, ends up throwing two hits out there. They weren’t exactly bullets, but they were still two hits. He knows what he’s doing and if he’s capable of swinging the bat today, then he’s our best option.”

It’s hard to imagine the Dodgers are better with Ramirez in such pain and half the batter he normally is. The Cardinals will clearly challenge him, and that hardly looks promising.

He has a cracked rib, and there’s not a lot that can be done about it. It needs time to heal, time Ramirez and the Dodgers are running out of.

“Hopefully it calms down overnight,” Mattingly said. “He’s getting some treatment. I’m sure he’ll try to do something to take the edge off a little bit of the pain, and we’ll see where he’s at. I think everybody knows the importance of the game. He wants to be a part of it. He thinks he can do something for us, so he’s in there.”

Here is today’s lineup for the Dodgers:

Carl Crawford LF, Mark Ellis 2B, Ramirez SS, Adrian Gonzalez 1B, Andre Ethier CF, Yasiel Puig RF, Juan Uribe 3B, A.J. Ellis C, Zack Grienke P.