NEW YORK (AP) — Steven Matz had one bad inning in his first postseason start, all the leeway Clayton Kershaw needed to keep the Mets from advancing to the NL Championship Series in front of their orange-towel-twirling fans.
Moving forward to face the Chicago Cubs doesn’t get any easier, either. All New York has to do now: beat the Dodgers’ other ace, Zack Greinke, in Los Angeles.
Matz gave up a two run-double to former Mets infielder Justin Turner and New York was held to three hits by Kershaw over seven brilliant innings on Tuesday night, losing 3-1 to force a deciding Game 5 in the NL Division Series.
Jacob deGrom is set to start for New York at Dodger Stadium, where he beat Kershaw in Game 1. Greinke was the winner in Game 2, when Chase Utley keyed a go-ahead rally in the seventh with a takeout slide that broke shortstop Ruben Tejada’s leg.
Mets fans were revved up after their team routed the Dodgers 13-7 on Monday for a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series — New York hasn’t been to the NLCS since 2006.
Pitching on three days’ rest and on a five-start postseason skid, Kershaw kept the simmering crowd of 44,183 at bay until he was gone after seven.
The Mets put two on against Chris Hatcher and Kenley Jansen — with help from what appeared to be a missed foul tip by plate umpire Chris Guccione on what would’ve been strike three for David Wright — in the eighth.
New York’s fans sensed a chance to take advantage of the Dodgers’ weak bullpen, but Daniel Murphy popped out to right field to end the threat.
Jansen finished with a perfect ninth for the save.
The 24-year-old Matz, the fourth straight starter for New York making his postseason debut, entered 4-0 in his brief big league career, including six scoreless innings at Los Angeles on July 5.
And despite making his first start in 19 days because of a tight upper back, the left-hander looked sharp from the start in pitching for the team he grew up rooting for about 50 miles away on Long Island.
He used his curveball to strike out leadoff batter Kiké Hernandez as fans lustily chanted “We wanted Utley!” and shook those ubiquitous playoff towels.
In fact, it was Kershaw who got the game’s first hit. He was erased on a fielder’s choice, but Howie Kendrick then singled to put runners on first and third. Adrian Gonzalez drove one run in with a single on a curveball as the rookie appeared to tire a bit.
Turner, who has blossomed in L.A. after he was not offered arbitration by the Mets following the 2013 season, lined a double on another curve to the left-field corner, scoring two when Yoenis Cespedes had trouble picking up the ball for a 3-0 lead.
Turner has been a red-, bushy-bearded thorn in the Mets side this series, going 7 for 15 with four doubles and three RBIs.
DeGrom was seen warming up in the Mets bullpen in the bottom of the fifth, when Matz was due up. But Bartolo Colon entered in relief after Michael Cuddyer struck out pinch hitting.
Matz gave up six hits and three runs. He struck out four and walked two — including Turner intentionally.
Kershaw took care of the rest for the three-time NL West champions, giving up his second homer of the series to Murphy in the fourth and only two other singles. Murphy had only homered once in 126 at-bats against lefties during the regular season.
Kershaw entered 1-6 with a 4.99 ERA in the postseason, but he stepped up this time when the Dodgers’ season was on the line. The loser in the Dodgers’ last two elimination games, he gave an effort this time that was more akin to his three NL Cy Young Awards and the 2014 NL MVP.
A.J. Ellis singled in the fourth to extend his postseason hitting streak to 12 games, setting a Dodgers franchise record.
Dodgers: Greinke allowed a pair of solo homers during a 5-2 victory in Game 2. He went seven innings and struck out eight without a walk. The right-hander is 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA in eight postseason starts. He was 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA this season, the lowest in the majors since Atlanta ace Greg Maddux posted a 1.63 mark in 1995.
Mets: Making his postseason debut, deGrom beat Kershaw 3-1 in the series opener at Dodger Stadium. Last season’s NL Rookie of the Year pitched seven scoreless innings and struck out 13, matching Tom Seaver’s franchise record for a postseason game.