St. Louis second baseman Matt Carpenter celebrates in front of the Dodgers'… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The Dodgers did not play a good game, but they talked one. They had to. They had to talk themselves into believing they still had a good chance to get to the World Series.
They talked history.
They have to win three consecutive elimination games against the St. Louis Cardinals. That has not been done in the National League Championship Series since … well, since last year, when the San Francisco Giants did it against these very same Cardinals.
BOX SCORE: St. Louis 4, Dodgers 2
The way the Dodgers tell it, they have the Cardinals right where they want them. The Cardinals might have won three of the first four games, but the Dodgers have Zack Greinke lined up for Game 5 and Clayton Kershaw for Game 6.
"We have Greinke and Kershaw in the next two games, so there's a good chance there will be a Game 7," Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said.
"We're all lined up," infielder Nick Punto said. "The pressure is all on them now."
If the Cardinals lose Game 5, the series would go back to St. Louis, and to a city that would suddenly be on edge.
If the Cardinals then lose Game 6, the series would come down to a winner-take-all game against a team that blew it last year, a team that would be staring at — in the immortal words of St. Louis native Yogi Berra — déjà vu all over again.
"We get it to Game 7, those things will creep in their heads over there," Gonzalez said.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly gathered his troops after Tuesday's loss and told them how the series would end: the Dodgers would win in seven games, as shortstop Hanley Ramirez recounted.
This is easier said than done, much easier. The Dodgers started Greinke and Kershaw in the first two games of the series, and they lost both games.
The Cardinals would have their ace, Adam Wainwright, lined up for Game 7.
But, as good as the Cardinals look right now, they looked even better headed into Game 5 last year. They were trying to clinch at home, against a guy who had been banished from the Giants' rotation.
Barry Zito was a last resort. The Giants turned to him only because Madison Bumgarner was running on empty. Zito turned in the game of his life, getting all but four outs without giving up a run.
"That was as tough a loss as we could take," said Dodgers utilityman Skip Schumaker, who played for the Cardinals last season. "We were up three games to one, we felt like we had them in a corner, with Barry Zito going, no offense to him. We felt like we had as good a chance as any at home to win it."
The Cardinals lost Game 5, and then Game 6, and then Game 7. They scored 18 runs in the first four games, and one in the last three.
So the St. Louis players were well aware of the questions that were coming their way after Game 4. When a television reporter reminded third baseman David Freese the Cardinals also were up three games to one last year, he smiled and said, "Were we?"
The Cardinals were professional in their comments, patient with the repetitive questions from waves of reporters. There were no declarations the series was over, no confession of panic because of what happened last October.
"Just because you're up 3-1 doesn't mean anything," infielder Daniel Descalso said. "You don't want to have that feeling again of being up 3-1 and losing three games in a row."
Outfielder Carlos Beltran and catcher Yadier Molina each insisted the Cardinals did not need to win Game 5 to preempt the spooks.
"We are not thinking about last year," Molina said. "I guarantee you that."
Said Beltran: "I know it sounds cliché, but you can't take anything for granted. You could be down two or three games. You can't predict baseball."
The Dodgers predicted they would win with Greinke and Kershaw in the first two games. They did not. If they win with Greinke and Kershaw now, this might be some kind of series after all.