Once Adrian Gonzalez powered up for the first one, their dormant offense broke loose.
Gonzalez homered twice and Zack Greinke came through with the clutch performance Los Angeles needed in a 6-4 victory over the Cardinals on Wednesday that trimmed St. Louis’ lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven playoff.
“Guys weren’t ready to lose (Wednesday),” said Carl Crawford, who also went deep to help the Dodgers save their season.
Los Angeles held on in the ninth, when St. Louis scored twice off closer Kenley Jansen before he struck out pinch-hitter Adron Chambers with two on to end it.
The series shifts back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Friday night, with ace Clayton Kershaw scheduled to start for Los Angeles against rookie Michael Wacha.
When those two squared off in Game 2, the Cardinals won 1-0 on an unearned run.
“We’ve kind of become America’s team because everyone wants to see a seventh game,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Probably even the fans in St. Louis would like to see a seventh game, so I figure that everybody’s for us to win on Friday night.”
The Cardinals also led last year’s NLCS 3-1 before losing three straight games to the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
“We’re looking to do the same thing,” Gonzalez said.
Desperate to avoid elimination, the Dodgers brought in some Hollywood star power for pregame introductions. Will Ferrell announced their lineup and lent a comic spin to each player’s name, capping it by introducing Greinke as “today’s winning pitcher.”
Ferrell knew what he was talking about.
Greinke got into a bases-loaded jam with none out in the first but escaped with no damage. From there, he pitched seven strong innings and even delivered an RBI single.
“That was big. I was real nervous out there with that situation,” Greinke said.
A.J. Ellis also homered at Dodger Stadium, where it is tougher to clear the fences in the heavy night air.
Helped by playing in 82-degree heat on a sunny afternoon, the Dodgers rediscovered their power stroke just in time to extend the series. They hit .274 in three games at home after batting .184 during the first two games in St. Louis.
“It was just one of those days that we were a little better, got some runs, good feeling,” Mattingly said.
The Dodgers regrouped after Greinke squandered an early 2-0 lead just as he did in Game 1, which Los Angeles lost 3-2 in 13 innings on the road.
After neither team homered in the first three games for the first time in NLCS history, the big bats came out. The Cardinals used a two-run homer by Matt Holliday and a solo shot from pinch-hitter Shane Robinson to win 4-2 on Tuesday night.
This time, Gonzalez went 3-for-4 with two solo homers and three runs scored. His two-out shot in the eighth made it 6-2.
“We have a team that can bounce back and do some pretty incredible things out there,” he said.
The Cardinals tied it at 2 in the third on Carlos Beltran’s RBI triple and Holliday’s run-scoring double before Yadier Molina grounded into his second inning-ending double play against Greinke.
“He wasn’t as sharp as he was the first time we faced him,” Beltran said. “But guys like that, the best guys in the game, they’re able to regroup and find a way to help their team win.”
Los Angeles answered in the bottom of the third. Mark Ellis singled leading off but was erased when Hanley Ramirez grounded into a double play.
Gonzalez followed with the Dodgers’ first homer of the NLCS, slugging the ball an estimated 428 feet into the right-field pavilion for a 3-2 lead.
As he headed toward the dugout, Gonzalez cupped his hands to his ears and wiggled them in a gesture resembling mouse ears. It was an apparent jab at Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, who said Gonzalez had done “some Mickey Mouse stuff” in celebrating a double on Monday night.
“It’s just having fun,” Gonzalez said. “I’m going to retire them so they’re not talked about once again.”
Crawford egged Gonzalez on.
“I’m pretty sure it rubbed them the wrong way and they’re going to use that as some kind of fuel, so you might as well keep doing it,” Crawford said, laughing.
Gonzalez replied: “Hey, if Carl wants them. It’s for him, not for anybody else.”
After wriggling out of big trouble in the first when Molina bounced into a double play, Greinke allowed two runs and six hits. He struck out four and walked one.
“He made his pitches, we made the plays, got out of it,” Gonzalez said. “We were able to get run support for him. All he needed was a few runs.”
Jansen gave up RBI singles to Matt Adams and Pete Kozma in the ninth.
A.J. Ellis homered in seventh, sending a 0-2 pitch from Edward Mujica into the left-field pavilion to make it 5-2.
Crawford homered with one out in the fifth, extending the Dodgers’ lead to 4-2. He walloped a 3-2 pitch from starter Joe Kelly an estimated 447 feet into the right-field pavilion.
Kelly gave up four runs and seven hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked none.
“I made a few bad pitches on heaters and didn’t locate that well, and they turned into home runs,” he said. “With guys on base, I was going after them and attacking them with the fastball, but they’re good hitters and they put good swings on them and hit them out of the park.”
Beltran’s triple went over the head of Andre Ethier and to the wall in center, scoring Matt Carpenter, who singled. Holliday followed with a double to deep center, but that was it for St. Louis until the ninth.
“We had a couple of opportunities to do something, and we just couldn’t make it happen,” manager Mike Matheny said. “These guys have done a tremendous job in those exact same situations all season long. You’re going to have games where you just can’t make it happen, and we’ve got to figure out a way to get it done the next time we get a chance.”
NOTES: Molina went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. ... Greinke’s hit in the second was the third of his postseason career. ... Ramirez, playing with a broken left rib, left after six innings. ... In the three games Ramirez has started with the injury, only two grounders have been hit to him at shortstop. ... The homers by Gonzalez and Crawford were the first given up by Kelly in 24 career postseason innings. He allowed two homers in a game twice during the regular season. ... The Dodgers are trying to become the 12th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. ... Beltran’s triple was his first ever in the postseason. ... Former Dodgers star Orel Hershiser tossed out the first pitch on the 25th anniversary of his three-hit shutout against Oakland in Game 2 of the 1988 World Series.