LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The visiting St. Louis Cardinals erupted for eight runs in the seventh inning to stun the Los Angeles Dodgers and ace Clayton Kershaw in a 10-9 shocker on Friday in the opener of their Division Series.
What had loomed as a pitchers' duel between Kershaw (21-3) and the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright (20-9) turned into a wild scoring spree with the light-hitting Cardinals hitting three home runs.
"It was a weird game," said Cards catcher Yadier Molina.
"You're expecting a 1-0 game, you've got Kershaw over there and you got Wano on this side.
"Wano didn't have his best stuff, and Kershaw was leaving the ball up in that inning and we took advantage."
Kershaw, the top pitcher in Major League Baseball with a 1.77 earned run average, had held the Cards to two hits -- a pair of solo home runs -- as the Dodgers, who grabbed a 6-1 lead in the fifth, carried a 6-2 advantage to the seventh.
St. Louis began the frame with four sharp singles in a row and capped the big inning with a go-ahead three-run double by Matt Carpenter and a three-run homer by Matt Holliday to spin the rout into the other direction for a 10-6 lead.
There were tense moments to come.
A two-run homer by Adrian Gonzalez in the eighth made it a two-run game and the Dodgers scored again in the bottom of the ninth before closer Trevor Rosenthal struck out Yasiel Puig with a man on third to end it as St. Louis held on for the win.
"That was a very special win," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
It was a bitter defeat for Kershaw, who had given up seven runs in four innings last year in a 9-0 elimination loss to the Cardinals in Game Six of the NL championship series.
Standing by his locker, Kershaw, who gave up eight runs in six and two-thirds innings, spoke to reporters after his career postseason ERA ballooned to 5.20.
"It's an awful feeling to let your team mates down," he said. "They were playing great and got a bunch of runs for me and I couldn't hold it. It's a terrible feeling."
Third baseman Carpenter, who followed Randal Grichuk's solo homer in the first with a homer in the sixth, had four RBIs.
Carpenter stroked his go-ahead, bases-loaded double off the wall in right-center after battling Kershaw in a long at-bat.
"The guy has shot a great knowledge of the strike zone, fights off the tough pitches and then gets something he can do something with," said manager Matheny.
"To watch Matt on the big stage stand in there and just put his nose in and fight, man."
Carpenter added: "That was a big win, no question. But we still got a lot of work to do."
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis had a big game for the home team, going 4-for-5 with two-run homer and three runs scored as the home team out-hit St. Louis 16-10 and left 11 men on base.
Both benches emptied in the third inning after Puig was hit in the left arm, bringing some bad blood between the teams.
No punches were thrown, though players had to be pulled apart to keep the incident from escalating.
The second game of the best-of-five series will be played on Saturday in Los Angeles with Lance Lynn (15-10) scheduled to pitch for St. Louis against the Dodgers' Zack Greinke (17-8).
Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Ian Ransom