LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Very little went right for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Four against the St Louis Cardinals on Tuesday, a pickoff of Nick Punto in the seventh inning proving to be one of their lowest points of the night.
The Dodgers were trailing 4-2 when Punto doubled on a fly ball with one out but soon after, with his eyes firmly focused on the allure of third base, he was smartly picked off at second by reliever Carlos Martinez.
That inning ended when Martinez retired Carl Crawford on a groundout to first baseman Matt Adams, and there was no way back from there as the Dodgers lost 4-2 to trail 3-1 in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
“I was a little too aggressive there, trying to anticipate and get to third base with less than two outs,” a dejected Punto said while surrounded by reporters and television cameras in the Dodgers clubhouse.
”That was a lonely place to be and that was a lonely jog off the field. It was a big play in the game, kind of put us in a bad spot and we lost a little bit of momentum.
“We’ve got to bounce back. We’ve got all our (top) pitchers in line and we’ll come back and try to get a win tomorrow,” Punto said of Wednesday’s Game Five, also in Los Angeles. “We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’ve got to stay positive.”
Asked whether he felt his pick-off by Martinez may have effectively decided Game Four, Punto replied: ”Especially against that bull-pen, you can’t give them any extra outs.
”The game gets short in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning with those guys. It’s definitely not something I am very excited about.
“Yadier Molina is a tremendous catcher and I know that Martinez can bounce a breaking ball. It would be nice to be on third base with less than two outs... but it was not a good baseball play.”
The Dodgers had a final opportunity to score against the Cardinals on Tuesday with one runner on base in the bottom of the ninth but Yasiel Puig grounded into a double play.
Moments later, Juan Uribe struck out swinging and the Dodgers had lost 4-2 to lie on the brink of elimination from the playoffs.
Though the Dodgers now face the monumental task of winning the next three games, the last two to be played in St Louis if required, they at least have their top three pitchers in line to start.
“We’re down 3-1, that’s not a real secret, but the best thought I have is I’ve got one of the best pitchers in baseball (Zach Greinke) pitching tomorrow (Wednesday),” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
”If we come out here and play well tomorrow and get a win, I’ve probably got the best pitcher in baseball (Clayton Kershaw) pitching the next day.
“I don’t want to be down but if you’re going to be down, I like the guys we’ve got going the next three or four days.”
Rookie Ryu Hyun-jin, who outduelled Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in Monday’s Game Three won 3-1 by the Dodgers in Los Angeles, is slated to start in Game Seven, if the series gets that far.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by John O'Brien