LOS ANGELES — Usually when a team is trailing in a playoff series 3-1 and then win Game 5 to stay alive, the overriding emotion is relief.
Unless you’re the extremely optimistic Los Angeles Dodgers.
The National League West champs used four homers, two by Adrian Gonzalez, to beat St. Louis 6-4 and cut the Cardinals lead to 3-2 in the NLCS.
Zack Greinke went seven clutch innings to give his team a return trip to the Midwest and a renewal of their baseball lives.
“Everything is good because we’re still alive,” said Dodger manager Don Mattingly after the win. “I think now we’ve kind of become America’s team because everyone wants to see a seventh game – probably even the fans in St. Louis would like to see a seventh game, so I figure that everyone wants us to win.”
No, Mattingly didn’t appear delirious in thinking Cardinals fans want to see the series go one second longer than it has to, but it does show the mood of the team that has the critical momentum.
While Donnie Baseball was smiling throughout the interview session, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny gave deliberate answers and appeared to be far away at some points during the questioning.
Perhaps he was thinking about a year ago and being in the exact same position during the NLCS. The Cardinals led the Giants 3-1 and appeared to be on their way to a second straight World Series. Instead, the rookie manager saw his team gag away the lead and it was Giants going on to win a second title in three seasons.
“We’re looking to do the same thing,” Gonzalez said.
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, who gave up two earned runs but struck out the side in the ninth to end the game, says the Cardinals might be a little gun-shy at the moment.
“Yeah, it would be natural for a team to feel that way,” Jansen said. “But we still have to go out and beat them the next two games and hopefully get to the World Series. It’s up to us to be ready.”
Not only do they seem to be ready, but the Dodgers are breathing and happy, and know that they have the man considered baseball’s best pitcher going for them in Game 6 against Michael Wacha, who beat them in Game 2. And the fact that Kershaw is a left-hander makes it even better, since the Cards (.238) don’t hit southpaws very well.
Should Kershaw pull his club through to a Game 7, St. Louis would have to defeat yet another lefty, Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Hyun-Jin Ryu, who shut down St. Louis 3-0 in Game 3 after allowing just three hits in seven innings. And even Greinke said he’d be ready to go an inning or two if needed.
One game at a time. though, and Mattingly is pleased he has the likely NL Cy Young Award winner heading to the mound for Game 6.
“Obviously, it’s a pretty good feeling with Clayton pitching Friday,” the manager said. “So we breathe ’til then. We feel that Clayton is pretty much going to keep us in the game and give (us) a chance if we put some runs up. We know their guy’s really good, so it will be fun.
“(Wacha’s) obviously … been really good. Our guy has been very good all year, so it ought to be a good game.”
Dodger left fielder Carl Crawford, who hit his fourth homer of the postseason Wednesday, is confident the Dodgers can win the next two games.
“We know we have a good team,” the 12-year veteran said. “We know what we have in the clubhouse. We believe in ourselves and we trust each other.”