LOS ANGELES – The Dodgers stole victory from the clutches of defeat on Saturday night.
Down 3-2 to the St. Louis Cardinals, three consecutive hits with two outs in the ninth inning allowed the Dodgers to escape with a 4-3 victory in front of an announced crowd of 42,449 at Dodger Stadium and pull into a tie for the second and final National League wild-card berth.
The Dodgers were down to their final strike when Andre Ethier singled with two outs against Cardinals closer Jason Motte (4-5). Ethier was replaced by pinch-runner Dee Gordon, who stole second base.
Gordon scored on a double by Luis Cruz that barely cleared the glove of a leaping Jon Jay in center field. Cruz was replaced by pinch-runner Elian Herrera, who scored on a single by Juan Rivera that grazed off the glove of Skip Schumaker and landed in shallow center field.
“We’re going to keep fighting, we’re going to keep playing hard,” Cruz said in a television interview on the field after being doused by a bucket of Gatorade.
Ronald Belisario (1-0) pitched a scoreless ninth inning to pick up the win.
Pitcher Jaime Garcia scored to break a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning after the Cardinals narrowly avoided an inning-ending double play.
Garcia and Dodgers starter Joe Blanton were almost equally impressive for five innings.
Allen Craig hit a two-run home run in the first inning off Blanton to give the Cardinals an early 2-0 lead. But Blanton
settled down to retire the next 13 consecutive batters until Garcia drew a seven-pitch walk to start the sixth inning.
After Jay singled, sending Garcia to second base, Blanton struck out Matt Carpenter for the first out of the inning. Matt Holliday hit a groundball to Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez that could have been an inning-ending double play – had Holliday not been ruled safe at first by umpire Dana DeMuth.
Garcia went to third base and Craig, a Southern California native who brought a sizeable cheering section, singled to drive in Garcia with the game-winning run.
Blanton pitched 5MD+,%30,%55,%702/MD-,%0,%55,%703 innings, allowing four hits, three runs, walking one and striking out six.
The Dodgers collected only three hits against Garcia, who walked one and struck out five.
With one out in the first inning, Shane Victorino reached on a throwing error by St. Louis shortstop Daniel Descalso. Victorino stole second base and scored on Adrian Gonzalez’s two-out single to right field.
Mark Ellis’ solo home run in the third inning, a line drive to the left-field pavilion, tied the score at 2-2.
The Dodgers did not threaten again until the ninth inning, when they collected three of their six hits.
Matt Kemp went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. The slugger sat out a pair of games last weekend after being diagnosed with fraying in his shoulder labrum and receiving two cortisone injections. In five games since, he is 2 for 18 with six strikeouts, a .111 average.
Since first injuring his shoulder and knee by crashing into the center-field wall at Coors Field on Aug. 28, Kemp is 5 for 48 (.104), lowering his batting average from .337 to a season-low .304. He’s faced repeated questions about his health but does not attribute his slump to the injury, recently referring to that as a possible “excuse.”
Victorino stole two bases against the left-handed Garcia and talented catcher Yadier Molina, his 34th and 35th steals of the season.
Kemp denied the slow-footed Molina a possible triple in the eighth inning. After misplaying Molina’s flyball off the center-field wall, Kemp tracked down the ball and threw a strike to third base that beat Molina by a foot.