ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers got more than expected from Hyun-Jin Ryu. Maybe they should have let the lefty go a little deeper.
Ryu made his first start since Sept. 12 and worked six solid innings, but once again the bullpen flopped Monday night in a 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals that put the Dodgers on the brink of elimination in their NL Division Series.
“Pretty amazing, a guy can be off that long and be that sharp,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He had that one little inning in the third, looked like it was getting a little rough.
“But he settled down and went farther than we thought.”
Not far enough, though. And now, it’s up to ace Clayton Kershaw to save the Dodgers’ season on short rest in Game 4.
Ryu was 14-7 with a 3.38 ERA during the regular season but lasted only one inning in his final start before leaving with a shoulder injury. He was added to the postseason roster after a strong showing in a simulated game last week.
“I could have definitely kept pitching, but Donnie has to make the best decision for the team,” Ryu said through a translator.
Mattingly went to left-hander Scott Elbert, who gave up a tiebreaking homer to rookie Kolten Wong in the seventh. St. Louis hung on to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
The Dodgers didn’t get much going offensively, either. Hanley Ramirez had three of their seven hits, including an RBI double in the sixth.
“We should have done a better job,” cleanup man Adrian Gonzalez said. “These games come down to big hits.”
Wong hit a two-run shot off Elbert, the decisive blow in Game 3. Fellow reliever J.P. Howell gave up Matt Carpenter’s tying, two-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 2, and rookie Pedro Baez allowed Matt Holliday’s three-run drive that put the Cardinals ahead 10-6 in the opener.
“Other than they’re getting their pitch to hit and they’re not missing it, I can only speak for myself,” Elbert said. “I’ve got to execute better.”
Carpenter went deep for the third straight game in the third, the only damage against Ryu.
Facing elimination in St. Louis for the second consecutive postseason, the Dodgers will turn to Kershaw on three days’ rest Tuesday night. Shelby Miller makes his first playoff start for the Cardinals, one win from a fourth straight trip to the NL Championship Series.
The Cardinals finished off Los Angeles in a six-game NLCS last fall, knocking out Kershaw in the fifth inning of a 9-0 blowout in the final game.
The Dodgers monitored Ryu closely, and Mattingly said it would be the same with Kershaw.
“Anytime we put Clayton Kershaw on the mound, we feel pretty good,” Mattingly said. “That being said, we’re in a tough game, we’re in St. Louis.”
Two runners reached against Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth Monday before he earned his second save of the series — with an assist from the grounds crew on a rainy night.
Rosenthal missed badly on consecutive pitches to Juan Uribe with two on and one out, then found his footing after a drying agent was applied and the mound was raked. Rosenthal retired the last two batters on flies to right for his sixth career postseason save.
St. Louis hit 105 homers in the regular season, the second-lowest total in the majors, ahead of only Kansas City. But the Cardinals have shown plenty of power in the playoffs, scoring 10 of their 15 runs on six homers in three games.
Heavy rain fell briefly in the bottom of the seventh, when Molina greeted Elbert with a double for his second hit. Molina advanced on a sacrifice before Wong drove the next pitch into the Cardinals’ bullpen in right-center.
Carpenter had eight homers in the regular season and had never connected in consecutive games before these playoffs. He hammered a 1-2 pitch from Ryu over the right-center wall leading off the third.
Yasiel Puig struck out in seven consecutive at-bats before hitting a leadoff triple in the sixth. Winning pitcher John Lackey almost got out of it, getting Adrian Gonzalez on a fly to shallow left and striking out Matt Kemp before Ramirez doubled to tie it.
Lackey, acquired from Boston at the trade deadline, gave up five hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts. He improved to 7-5 in postseason play, including three wins for Boston last year — one against St. Louis in the World Series.
Mattingly announced before the game that Kershaw would start Game 4 on three days’ rest instead of Dan Haren, the only way Los Angeles has a chance to get two starts apiece out of its twin aces in this series. Zack Greinke would start Game 5 on regular rest in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
Kershaw was 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA this season and is a heavy favorite to win his third NL Cy Young Award in four years. But he blew a 6-1 lead in the Cardinals’ 10-9 victory in Game 1 and is 1-4 with a 5.20 ERA in the postseason.
“There’s always something to prove,” Kershaw said. “This game is very humbling. People don’t care about what you’ve done in the past. It’s, ‘What have you done for me lately?’
“People turn on you really fast and I know that.”