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Cardinals one win from World Series after 4-2 victory in NLCS Game 4

St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday hits two-run home run during third inning Game 4 National League baseball championship series against

St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday hits a two-run home run during the third inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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Updated: October 15, 2013 10:46PM



LOS ANGELES — After a season filled with dramatic comebacks and game-breaking hits, the Los Angeles Dodgers had no big finishes left for Game 4 of the NL championship series.

And the Dodgers’ inability to do the improbable left them on the brink of playoff elimination.

After the Cardinals scored three runs in the third inning off Ricky Nolasco, St. Louis made its lead stand up all the way to a 4-2 victory Tuesday night, taking a commanding 3-1 series lead.

That’s a deficit the Dodgers have never overcome in their lengthy postseason history.

Yasiel Puig had two hits and drove in a run, playing with fire after Cardinals starter Lance Lynn buzzed his chin with a pitch in the fourth. But not even the Dodgers’ emotional barometer could prevent their first home playoff loss in four games this month.

With Andre Ethier on first base and nobody out in the ninth, Dodger Stadium was buzzing — but Puig grounded into a double play against closer Trevor Rosenthal, putting a pall over the stands.

With every methodical inning, the playoff-tested Cardinals showed the Dodgers how to beat their playoff emotions.

The Dodgers had eight hits — two more than St. Louis — and generated a regular stream of baserunners, but two potential rallies were killed by inning-ending double plays. Another ended with the bases loaded when Nolasco struck out with the bat on his shoulder.

And even when Nick Punto delivered an unlikely double in the seventh inning to get the crowd stirring, the backup utilityman got picked off second base before Carlos Martinez even threw his next pitch.

The Dodgers’ offense didn’t come through, but they also couldn’t overcome the club’s first mediocre starting pitching performance of the entire series. Los Angeles had allowed just four runs in the first 33 innings of this series before Nolasco gave up three more in the third.

Nolasco, the longtime Marlins right-hander, pitched just four innings in his first postseason appearance for his new team, giving up three hits and three runs.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly considered skipping Nolasco and moving up one of his two Cy Young Award-winning aces, as he did in the division series against Atlanta, but ultimately decided to keep Nolasco on the mound with Zack Greinke starting Game 5 on Wednesday.

A few moments after Nolasco struck out and stranded three Dodgers runners, the Los Angeles-area native yielded the Cardinals’ biggest burst of the entire series, including a 426-foot homer by Matt Holliday into the bullpen behind left field.

That was all the Cardinals needed to disappoint the movie stars and championship-starved fans who crowded into Dodger Stadium anticipating another Hollywood ending in this charmed season. Los Angeles was 12 games below .500 on June 21 before a 42-8 surge festooned with hair-raising comebacks and narrow wins put the Dodgers back into the postseason in style.



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